The Russellville School Board last night voted to end one of its virtual school options for students in grades K-8 at the end of the first nine weeks and to devise a plan to end that particular virtual option for high school students as well, at least by mid-year.
CORRECTION: The option that will be eliminated is a virtual option in which home students are taught at the same time as regular classes. Students may still stay home, but then must use a state virtual education program, the Lincoln Learning platform. I had indicated all virtual options were being eliminated.
The move seems to have been motivated by concern that some students weren’t being well-served by virtual education. Superintendent Mark Gotcher said the problem was the additional burden being placed on teachers with regular classrooms and spending extra time to reach out to students at home.
Many schools are struggling to provide classes both in-school and at home simultaneously. Russellville is not the first where teachers have talked about the difficulties in that.
I can’t help but note that this could produce another potential source of students for the profit-making Arkansas Virtual Academy, an online school soon to be authorized to enroll up to 5,500 students. If it hits that mark with expected state Board of Education Approval will produce almost $37 million of state revenue (at the same per-student reimbursement rate given real school districts) for a district without walls, gyms, band rooms, cafeterias, the same level of teacher staffing and all the rest offered by real schools. It also has a less-than-stellar academic record. It grew far beyond its original limited enrollment status thanks to legislative trickery by a senator who’s now state Education secretary, Johnny Key. I like their odds of raking in still more dough for the K-12 outfit that provides services to the “academy.”