In the modern world, Pueblo City Schools (D60) has to meet students where they are. And some of them are in cyberspace.

District officials have announced plans to launch Dutch Clark Digital Online Learning this fall. The initiative, named after the standout athlete and Central High School graduate whose name also graces the school district’s sports stadium, will provide new learning opportunities for students who may not be comfortable in traditional classroom settings.

Rich Mestas, administrator and principal of the online school, is expecting an initial enrollment of about 125 to 150 high school students, with more students joining over time. It’s a project the district has been working on for three years. And it’s very timely.

Online learning won’t appeal to everybody. Some students learn better in classrooms surrounded by their peers with face-to-face interaction with their teachers. But that’s not true of all students.

Some students may feel anxious being around large crowds of people. Some may be shy about asking questions in front of a group. Online learning could help eliminate those obstacles.

There are other potential advantages. One is the convenience online learning offers. Also, students can learn at their own pace. And Mestas said there will be plenty of opportunities for interaction between teachers, staff and students within the online program.

“I call it ‘healthy intrusiveness,’” Mestas said. “Making sure we are consistently in contact with our students, making sure they are logging in, learning and progressing, and their needs are being met.”

This type of learning may seem foreign to those of us who grew up in the pre-internet age. However, students of this generation often are more comfortable around technology than their predecessors.

Pueblo County School District 70 already offers online coursework. So if D60 hadn’t taken this step, it could have been at risk of losing more students to its suburban neighbor.

The initial budget for the online school is expected to be about $1 million. With the number of students expected to enroll, it’s expected to be self sufficient within its first year of operations.

D60 Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso seems committed to making the online school a success.

“When we started on this journey, I promised people that we could do this better,” Macaluso said. “And we are doing it better, we will do it better.”

Let’s hope she’s right about that. The school district has to serve a diverse student base, so it needs to have diversity in its educational offerings.

Online schooling is one more tool to help our community’s young people prepare for their lives and careers.