The Calhoun County Board of Education last week approved a policy allowing students to register to take core classes online.
The policy is new, and outlines how students can register to participate in the school system’s Virtual High School — but the program itself isn’t. Based at the Career Academy campus in Jacksonville, the online program started with efforts to allow kids who had fallen behind in coursework to catch back up, the program’s director and the system superintendent said Wednesday.
“The Virtual School policy itself is relatively new, but we’ve been doing a version of this policy for about four years,” Robin Kines, principal of the system’s PASS Program, said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.
The program Kines heads offers flexible, computer-based instruction to Calhoun County students. Many of those students are in situations that would otherwise keep them from a classroom.
Forty students are participating in that program this year, Kines said, and five work predominantly from home — which best matches the Virtual School program the new policy outlines.
Students who participate follow a curriculum drafted by the state’s Department of Education, according to the policy, and must maintain a 60 percent average in the courses they take.
Superintendent Joe Dyar, speaking by phone Wednesday afternoon, said most courses offered now are those considered core classes — mathematics, science, English, or social studies.
Dyar said the board’s approval of policies and procedures in the program is required by the state Department of Education. The program is open to any student, he said.
Some elective courses are offered virtually, too, Dyar said. While the program allows students “to work at their own pace” and perhaps earn extra credit, he said, it also requires “a very unique individual with a lot of self-discipline.”
Students must register to participate in the program before each school semester begins using a form available from the system’s central office. The deadline for the spring semester is Nov. 17.
Those in the program will complete most work from home by computer, though regular assessments are undertaken at Kines’ Jacksonville campus.
She expects the number of students participating in the program will increase.
“What we’re facing in education is a diverse population of students, and because of their dependence on technology ... I think we’ll see a growth in the Virtual School, due to their comfort level with the Internet,” Kines said. “That’s their form of information.”