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District 303 school board hears virtual school pitch

ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles School District 303 special board meeting Monday night attracted a full house as members listened to and questioned a virtual school’s pitch.

District 303 is one of 18 districts in the Fox Valley invited to join the Illinois Virtual Charter School @ Fox River Valley, which Virtual Learning Solutions seeks to open in the fall. The company contracts with K12 Inc., a for-profit company, to provide the online instruction.

By law, the board has 30 days from Monday to make a decision. If any of the 18 school districts denies the request, Virtual Learning Solutions will appeal to the State Charter School Commission, the district’s legal counsel said.

K12 representative Randall Greenway, the board’s contact for the charter application, spent about 45 minutes presenting the plan, touching on topics such as accountability, teacher licensure, student programs and the types of students that could benefit from a virtual school.

Initially, he said, few students will likely enroll full-time.

“It’s not for all students,” Greenway said. “One in 500 students will be interested.”

Board member Kathy Hewell expressed concerns about the education students would receive, especially compared to the services the district’s schools provide.

“That would concern me that a virtual school would not offer many things we provide,” she said.

In his presentation, Greenway said the curriculum offers more than 185 courses and more than 21,000 individual lessons. To Hewell, he said a virtual school could be a better fit for students with severe food allergies and those who are bullied.

“This is not an easy program,” Greenway said. “Our curriculum is rigorous.”

For Superintendent Don Schlomann, the question wasn’t about the merits of virtual schools. For him, the issue was about K12, who he said is struggling to keep clients in Wisconsin.

“The question for me is whether K12, quite frankly, is the venue to deliver that,” Schlomann said.

District administration was expected to make its own presentation regarding the proposal, but board members were still asking Greenway questions at press time. An opportunity for public comment was also planned.

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