St. Tammany students skip classes for 'virtual school' next month
Don Ames Reporting
Summer vacation ends and kids return to classes today. But, some Northshore students won't start school until next month...and even then, they won't be in the classroom.
St. Tammany is launching a new online student learning program...a 'virtual classroom', aimed at reaching home-schooled students.
"It'll start after Labor Day. Just like the program itself, it's non-traditional," says St. Tammany School Superintendent Trey Folse. "So there's some different opportunities there for people who are used to a different kind of schedule."
"6th, 7th and 8th graders, this year, will be the first group," says Folse. "We're going to start small. We want to make sure we do it properly."
He says it's a pilot program, and may be extended in the future, But, they want to make sure the district has full command of the technology required and any specialized teacher training first.
Registration for a limited number of youngsters is underway now for the 'virtual classes' that'll begin in September.
"We'll probably limit ourselves to about 200 students and then try to grow it and build it from there," says Folse.
The middle school kids will be able to have discussions with their teachers, get their lessons and their grades via their computer.
Folse says it'll offer a variety of web-based courses.
"As far as the requirements and the vigor that goes along with it...all those state requirements and everything will have to be met."
And, although the students will take their courses online, they'll be counted as district students, meaning $1 million to $1.5 million from the state in additional per-student funding.
"These would be students that, if they were a part of our school system, we would get the Minimum Foundation monies that go along with them, just like a traditional student that would be in our classroom," Folse says.
"We just thought that this was an opportunity for us, as a local school system, to offer some different options and flexibility for the parents and students that we serve in our community."
He says the kids will get the freedom and scope of an online education, while their parents benefit from the district's teaching expertise.
The application process is on a first come, first served basis.
The program is not an entirely new concept for St. Tammany. Parish students have been able to take electives not offered at their schools or retake classes online.