The closing of the Missouri Virtual School, an internet-based instruction program offered to high school students through Missouri State University (MSU), has offered new challenges for local school districts.
MSU's Extended Campus provided classes in a wide range of courses through teleconferenceing technology. The program was expected to lose nearly $200,000 in the current school year due to inadequate enrollment and will not be returning after 12 years.
The Purdy R-2 School District was one of many area districts using the Missouri Virtual School to supplement the local curriculum with weighted credit and dual credit classes. Purdy offered astronomy, dual credit United States history and French this past year.
"The Missouri Virtual School was a fantastic service for our students," said Purdy High School Principal Bob Vice.
Dropping the Missouri Virtual School was one of the budget cuts approved by the Purdy Board of Education in May. Vice said the Virtual School administrators had indicated for several months that the current semester would be the program's last.
|Purdy had 15 to 20 students a year taking classes through the Missouri Virtual School.||Purdy, like other districts, used the Missouri Virtual School to teach classes not offered otherwise. The French course, for example, doubled the number of foreign languages offered at the district.|
Vice has begun looking for alternatives to the Missouri Virtual School for the coming year. He noted a dual credit American history course is offered through Central Missouri University. Another district suggested looking at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Science and the Arts, which charges $300 per semester per student.
"A lot depends on what services are offered and how much they cost," Vice said. "There are programs similar to what the Missouri Virtual School cost. In today's economy and the school budget, a considerable cost has to figure into the district's budget. I'm optimistic but not certain we will have something in the fall."
Purdy still offers dual credit courses through Crowder College and the University of Missouri-Kansas City and has articulation agreements to recognize high school work on the college level with Missouri State University, Missouri Southern State University and Crowder College.
Monett High School offered access to the Missouri Virtual School on a case by case basis. According to Superintendent John Jungmann, virtual classes were mostly used for gifted students or providing instruction for students who could not function in a regular classroom setting. The virtual school was not a core program in Monett, Jungmann said.
Tyler Laney, director at the Southwest Area Career Center (SWACC) in Monett, has spoken to superintendents about the possibility of internet-based instruction developing for local districts out of the Monett facility.
"We've talked with several superintendents about how the Career Center can become a conduit to help area smaller schools meet some needs instructionally, like virtual programs," said Monett Superintendent John Jungmann, who has participated in those discussions.
For example, local districts may each have a few students who want to take calculus but not enough in any one school to support a whole section in calculus. Together there could be enough participation to support a course offered through the Career Center for the local schools
Classes could be offered in actual time for student interaction or recorded for later access that the teacher would monitor. Jungmann said the Career Center could offer one or a hybrid of both.
"Missouri is behind in offering virtual instruction compared to other states," Jungmann said. "Florida has been doing it for six or seven years. We're looking at what they learned to avoid making the same mistakes along the way.
"I see real promise in the program," Jungmann said. "As our graduates go to college, they're taking virtual classes. We've got to prepare students for those kinds of offerings. We're really about what our kids need to be successful at the next level."
Jungmann has given Brad Hanson, the incoming SWACC director, the task of investigating a joint venture using virtual resources for the coming year. Monett High School Principal David Steward and Assistant Superintendent Julie Germann met with Hanson last week about how to shape a program for next school year. A successful combination could be offered for wider use during the 2011-12 school year.
"This is the direction education is going. We've got to make sure we're on top of it," Jungmann said.