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Local children register for classes at new virtual school

The launch of the Grady County School System’s virtual school is underway and a meeting Monday night included seven families representing children who are currently being home schooled.
Grady County Assistant School Superintendent Martha Fowler briefed the members of the board of education Tuesday night.
“We had seven families in attendance representing 10 students. They have already begun registering for the program,” Mrs. Fowler said.
Grady County is one of only four virtual schools in Georgia. Others include Thomas County, Dublin City and the Georgia Cyber Academy.
Mrs. Fowler said that she has fielded calls from across the state expressing interest in registering, but the school system is limiting participation to Grady County residents only.
By registering in the Grady County virtual school the local school system will earn state funding for the students who previously were home schooled. The school system is working with K12 Inc., which manages the virtual school program all over the United States.
According to Mrs. Fowler, the company will mail books and other hands-on materials directly to families of registered students. She said that the materials a student will receive are in many instances more than the local system is able to offer students in the traditional bricks and mortar schools.
Mrs. Fowler and School System Social Worker Nonie Hunter are serving as the administrators of the program and must approve each student who applies to participate.
The local school officials are able to monitor the participating child’s attendance and Mrs. Fowler said the virtual school students must complete 179 days of instruction just like regular classroom students.
“They are required to log in each day and we can monitor that,” the assistant superintendent said.
Virtual school teachers will also be able to chat online with students to offer additional help and instruction in addition to telephone contacts.
Mrs. Fowler demonstrated the website and told of the expansive course offerings available to participating students.
In addition to attracting homeschooled students, Mrs. Fowler said the system can utilize the virtual school to provide instruction for children on temporary suspension or for homebound students.
“This is a learning year, but once we get all the ins and outs worked out we believe it will be great,” Mrs. Fowler said. She said that in the future the school system could consider expanding the program and allowing those outside of Grady County to register.
She pointed out that whoever participates must take state assessments and tests here in Grady County. For the first year, participating students will not be eligible to participate in clubs, extra curricular activities or athletics.
“We just want to see how it goes this first year,” Mrs. Fowler said.
K12 Inc. is paid a percentage of the funding the local system earns for the students enrolled in the Grady County virtual school. School officials point out these are funds the system would not otherwise earn so it is a big plus financially for both K12 and the school system.
The assistant superintendent also said the curriculum offered is very extensive which benefits the academic offerings available to homeschooled children.
She pointed out the foreign language offerings alone allow virtual school students to enroll in classes in German, Latin and Chinese.
Also on Tuesday night, Mrs. Fowler updated board members on the summer school remediation program as well as the summer curriculum work preparing for the new Common Core standards and the two days of administrative pre-planning prior to the opening of school.

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