RICHMOND – The Virginia Department of Education will try an experiment starting this year: A virtual high school experience, with all classes taught online.
The state has offered a wide range of online classes for years, but as supplements to a traditional education and featuring advanced classes or foreign language courses not popular enough to justify a regular class in parts of the state.
But now up to 100 students, signed up on a first-come, first-served basis, can try their hand at a full slate of online high school classes. Teachers will be fully certified and students can earn a regular diploma from their local high school, which will still oversee testing.
"We are excited to offer this opportunity to high school students, especially those with the potential for thriving in a non-traditional instructional setting," Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven Staples said in a statement announcing the program.
Students must sign up through their high school counselor, and it will be up to local school administrators whether to participate in the pilot. Schools will have to provide books and other support materials, potentially including computers, to students enrolled. Participating schools will continue to get state funding for students who enroll in the pilot.
Online teachers will be provided by Charlotte County, which contracts with the state to staff online classes, Department of Education spokesman Charles Pyle said.
Students can sign up in any grade, nine through 12, Pyle said. The only charge is if they transfer back to their regular school after 21 days.
"The message from this program isn't that this is an ideal approach for all students," Pyle said. "But for some students this might be preferable. ... You might have students who are going to do better in a virtual environment for any number of reasons."
More information on the program is available online at virtualvirginia.org/FullTimeProgram.
Fain can be reached by phone at 757-525-1759.