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Virtual classroom expands in Carroll

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Class has already started at Carroll's bricks-and-mortar schools, and the rebooted Virtual Academy will soon come online, too.

The Carroll County School Board took action in an early Monday meeting to add management services by virtual education firm K12 for online learning available to students statewide.

Carroll educators partnered with K12 last school year to offer an online curriculum to the more than 200 home-schooled students in the county.

The school system will continue outreach efforts to local home schoolers. “It is our hope to bring them back to the Carroll County Public Schools system through this virtual school program,” Carroll Schools Superintendent Greg Smith said after the meeting.

Services provided by K12 will expand the virtual school's district across the state, he said. K12 will recruit students into the virtual classrooms, manage academics and proctor Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) testing in the program.

Educators have been pleased with the educational outcomes for the students who were enrolled in online learning last year.

“We had an 80 percent success rate on Virginia SOLs with our students that were participating,” the superintendent said.

That proved to the Carroll educators that the program could achieve good results.

The county school system will seek to attract home school students in Carroll into the program, but also throw it open to others across Virginia.

While participation by in-county students is free, a registration fee of $500 will apply to students outside of Carroll.

With K12 representatives actively recruiting students across the state, educators believe the virtual classrooms will fill up. Smith said they limited enrollment to 300.

Students in the virtual school will add to Carroll's average daily membership. That means the county will qualify for more funding from the state.

“We hope to take advantage of the ADM benefits that we will see and that will be an additional revenue stream for the school district,” Smith told The Gazette. “In these tight budget times an additional revenue stream is certainly beneficial for us all.”

Educators estimate that state aid will increase $136,000 based on higher attendance and $150,000 could come from registration fees to students outside Carroll.

Smith has been working with state Department of Education officials to offer this program, which he called the first of its kind in Virginia.

“We hope it will be a template for other virtual programs as other schools systems realize the benefits,” the superintendent said.

The virtual school will require 14 highly qualified state elementary- and middle school-certified teachers to head up the classes. Smith said the program will apply to kindergarten through eighth grade students, a change from last year when it included high school level classes.

The high school portion was dropped because it was difficult to coordinate, he said.

School board members approved a one-year contract with K12 with up to three one-year renewals.

Virtual school will commence after Labor Day.