Registration begins for online school

The state-run digital school is free for the first 4,000 students.
Monday, May 7, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:44 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Students can register today for a state-funded seat in Missouri’s new virtual school, which opens in August.

Registration for the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program, open to students in kindergarten through 12th grade, will continue through May 29. All students, regardless of economic status or where they’re from in Missouri, are eligible for one of 4,000 seats paid for by the state.

Assuming the cap will be filled, an additional registration period will begin in June for tuition-paying students. Depending on the grade level, courses will cost between $357 and $375.

For the first year, the online courses will be tailored to kindergarten through fifth-grade students and ninth- through 12th-grade students because of funding, said Curt Fuchs, virtual education director for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Middle school courses will be added in August 2008. However, middle school students can apply if the courses are appropriate to their academic needs.

Students in state-funded seats can take up to six classes. That includes any classes they are taking in traditional schools. Tuition-paying students can take as many courses as they want.

Each class has its own teacher, who has a phone number, e-mail address and online messaging. If students cannot reach their teacher, they can call the 24-hour academic help desk in Maryville.

Courses will include English, algebra, geometry, economics, history, Spanish and French, among others. Students can also choose from nine Advanced Placement classes that are certified by the College Board.

“Currently, only a third of Missouri’s schools offer (AP) classes,” Fuchs said. “In August, all 527 districts will offer them.”

Fuchs said Missouri’s virtual classes are different from others because they promote interaction between a student and his or her teacher, similar to a real classroom. Many online classes have not had person-to-person interaction.

Virtual classes are subject to the same state standards as those in school districts. For example, students will have to take the Missouri Assessment Program standardized tests, and all curriculum must meet state standards.

The virtual school has been evolving for the past nine months and is meant to serve home-schooled, home-bound, advanced and private school students at all levels, Fuchs said.

He said the biggest planning challenge is the uncertainty about which students will be interested.

“I have absolutely no idea what my student body is,” Fuchs said. “We’re running quickly with it at this moment, and there is a lot of potential.”

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