Virtual academy has 4 students

MEDORA

Four Jackson County students have enrolled in the Medora Virtual Academy since information was shared a month ago.

They recently received their cyber box, including a laptop, printer/scanner and textbooks, from VLN Partners of Pittsburgh, which is partnering with Medora Community School Corp. for the virtual academy.

Principal Chrystal Street said it’s a good addition because it offers a specialized type of education.

“To be quite honest, I’m always going to recommend the traditional school first because I really believe strongly in the interaction,” she said. “But I’m also a realist. I know that that’s not for everybody for whatever reason. Traditional school, the way we have it now within four walls, is not suited for everybody. This gives some kids a little bit more freedom and flexibility to meet their needs.”

Some students have behavioral issues at school. Some need to work as a way to support their families. Some are pursuing other interests that cause them to miss a lot of school.

For those types of students, the virtual academy is a good option, Street said.

During a recent meeting at the school, parents received information from a VLN representative and had an opportunity to ask questions.

“It was very much informative,” Street said. “They ran through what the program would look like and what to expect once the kids got in.”

Students locally and around the state can take online courses through the virtual academy and receive a diploma from Medora High School if they graduate.

For full-time students in grades 7 through 12, there is no cost to enroll. But if they choose to just take one yearlong class, the cost is $650.

Once they fill out an application, they are enrolled in the virtual academy and receive a cyber box. Currently, one middle-schooler and three high-schoolers are enrolled.

Classes are based on each student’s needs.

“Maybe if they come in with, let’s say, nine weeks of English 9, then we can go ahead and put them in the middle of the English 9 program so they can just kind of carry on with their studies,” Street said.

For each subject, students are expected to complete one module per week on their laptops. Some modules are self-graded, while teachers grade others.

A homeroom teacher is responsible for checking in on the students via email or phone.

Medora, the second-smallest public school corporation in the state, decided to offer the virtual academy in hopes of increasing enrollment.

Medora’s average daily enrollment for kindergarten through 12th grade is 217, which is down from 235½ in February. Superintendent Roger Bane said kindergartners now count as a whole number instead of half.

A few students have left Medora for academics- or athletics-related reasons, school officials said. That’s despite the schools improving their accountability grades in 2014, with the junior-senior high receiving a D after four straight F’s and the elementary going from a D to a B.

VLN helps school districts by offering customized solutions that transform the curriculum into interactive virtual learning opportunities, according to the company’s website.

The annual fee is $8,375, which includes marketing of the program. Bane said that money either would come out of the Booker Foundation, which is a school fund set aside for technology, or will be split between that fund and the capital projects fund.

Bane said the corporation developed five classes. If it goes above that number, the fee would increase.

“Each year, we can develop five more (classes),” he said.

VLN also offers 25 spots for free credit recovery classes, which Bane said is good because the corporation has had to pay other school districts for those in the past.

With the virtual academy being new, Street said, she is happy to have four students enrolled.

“I think what we have is a good number to get started,” Street said. “As the word gets out, we’ll see that it will probably grow in popularity. We even had students (in the traditional classroom) who think, ‘I would like to try the virtual school,’ then we talk about it.

“Ultimately, families are going to have to decide whatever’s best for their children,” she said. “We’ll provide them with whatever resources we have to make sure that those kids get a good education.”

Students may enroll in the virtual academy at any time.

“I would suggest that people reach out to us, give us a call, ask questions, and we’ll answer them,” Street said.

At a glance

For information about the Medora Virtual Academy, call Medora Junior-Senior High School at 812-966-2201.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.