Two virtual charter schools on the brink of collapse have spotlighted challenges in statewide virtual education in Indiana, and now some school districts are creating virtual schools and programs to better serve their local students.
Vigo County School Corporation opened a new virtual high school this year. It’s one of a handful around the state.
School officials say the district lost out on more than $2 million in funding because local students enrolled with statewide virtual charters.
Communications director Bill Riley says the district’s new school will provide a better virtual option for local students’ unique needs.
“We know our community has been asking for this option because 367 students last year chose that option. They bypassed us,” he says.
State lawmakers placed more rules on virtual education this year – including a requirement for districts to create virtual schools if at least 100 enrolled students or more than 30 percent of the student population learn online more than half the time.
Vigo County School officials are quick to point out locally-operated virtual schools offer closer and clearer oversight, making them significantly different than the troubled statewide virtual charter schools.
And Riley says the ongoing problems with statewide virtual charters came to light as the district planned the new school, helping the district identify some issues to avoid.
“These seem to be some pitfalls, how are we going to be different? Because ultimately, you have students who were losing,” he says.
The state reports three district-based virtual schools started this year, including in the Gary and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson United school corporations. The Indiana Department of Education says it will have more data on various virtual programs around the state later this fall.