More Virtual School Options

There’s going to be a new virtual school in Kansas:

“The Southwest Plains Regional Service Center, based in Sublette, is opening Southwind Virtual School this year in partnership with school districts in Scott City, Montezuma, Sublette, Stanton County, Dighton and Dodge City. ”

The article in the Garden City telegram describing this school says that it is suitable for homeschoolers. But that’s not the only possible audience. Students who attend a traditional school may also find a virtual school suitable for taking one or two classes.

The article also mentions students in southwest Kansas. But from a technological standpoint, there’s no reason why a student in Wichita, Lawrence, or Leavenworth might not find something valuable in the program. After all, some virtual schools in the state accept students from anywhere within Kansas. (A few even take students from outside the state, as long as the families pay tuition.)

Here’s how the virtual school works in this case:

“The kindergarten-through-eighth-grade program uses the K12 Curriculum, a widely used online learning resource that aligns with Kansas learning standards. The service center provides a staff of trained educators and free access to the online resources, which parents can choose to use in whatever way they see fit, said Jara Wilson, educational specialist at the center.

“‘The parent is still the primary learning coach,’ she said. “We provide educational specialists as support and guidance for the parent.'”

So how did this offering come about? Competition:

“the school came about as a result of some local superintendents who asked the service center what they could do about the loss of students to virtual schools based in places like Lawrence. Students enrolled across the state, even if only virtually, are counted in the virtual schools’ enrollment figures instead of the local districts, and the local schools lose that funding.

The service center, therefore, decided to open a virtual school of its own, partnering with school districts that wanted to share in the monetary benefits of keeping students enrolled locally.”

Here’s another thought: if you hear someone say that school employees aren’t concerned about money, just kids, don’t believe them. School employees can understand dollars and cents as much as anyone else. As a result, kids in southwest Kansas are winners. They could use the Lawrence program. Now they will also be able to use a program based in their own region. And given the local presence of the service center, they are more likely to hear about the virtual school option in the first place.

Here’s an interesting twist on how money from the state is distributed:

“The center is able to offer the courses free to families, and computer rentals for $20 per year, because it receives per-student state funding as would a bricks-and-mortar school, Wilson said. [Jara Wilson works for the center].

The school district where a student lives gets credit when it comes to the weightings worked into the state’s school finance formula, she said. These weightings are the extra funds schools get if they have particularly high or low enrollment, or low-income students, among other things.”

“Don Wells, superintendent at USD 466 Scott City, said his district got involved because he thought it would be a good service for families in town that didn’t want to attend public schools.”

Well, not entirely. Virtual schools are public schools if they admit any student, charge no tuition, and participate in state assessments.

Virtual school available for some Kansas families, Garden City Telegram, August 2

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