by Kate Evans
The Morgan County School Board is considering a new policy that could allow local home-schooled students to take online courses at home through a new Morgan County Schools cyber academy.
The policy would create the Warm Springs Cyber Academy.
A first reading of the policy was held at the June 5 school board meeting.
The cyber academy is a free online learning alternative to the traditional classroom education. It would provide courses aligned to state standards. If students complete the virtual pathway, they will receive a high school diploma.
Secondary Education Director Russell Penner said that the virtual school program was created under Senate Bill 630, which allowed county boards or multi-county consortiums to contract with virtual school providers after adopting the policy.
If approved, the Warm Springs Cyber Academy would serve home-schooled students who either complete all coursework online at home or in a school building or at both. The students may also complete courses online and attend courses at James Rumsey Technical Institute.
Morgan County Schools would provide the cyber academy teachers and curriculum and the school system, parents and students would form a partnership to complete their coursework, Penner said.
To be eligible to participate in the program, students must be enrolled in Morgan County Schools as a fulltime student, which is six courses per year at the high school level and at least four courses at the middle school and elementary school levels.
During its first year, the cyber academy would only be for home-schooled students in grades 6-9, Penner said. Year two would add kindergarten through tenth grade students and high school courses would continue to be added as students progress. By year four the cyber academy would be available for students k-12.
Penner said the cyber school would allow flexibility for families whose children have athletic and artistic pursuits that have to leave school early for dance classes or sports practices. Many of these students end up being home-schooled.
As enrolled students home-schooled students could attend twelfth grade in high school and graduate and walk the stage and get their diploma. They can’t do that now, he noted. Home-schooled students could attend a partial day online and also attend a couple classes at school. The cyber academy could bring back some home-schooled students to the school system, Penner said.
Virtual learners can also be eligible for attending extracurricular activities and sports in the school in their residency area, but must meet the same requirements as students enrolled in the traditional day program including WVSSAC requirements, according to the policy.
Students in the new academy would be counted under net enrollment at the school nearest their residence for state aid. They would be subject to the same assessment exams and requirements as other students and their test results would be included with the school’s and the district’s results, said school officials.
According to the policy, eligible students must be enrolled in courses to meet Morgan County Schools graduation requirements, successfully complete a virtual education orientation course and meet county and state enrollment requirements for the course or courses including successful completion of any prerequisite courses.
They also must maintain a minimum grade of 60 in courses taken in the current academic school year, have consistent daily access to internet service and maintain minimum weekly communication.
Other policy guidelines
The policy says virtual students will be considered in attendance if they are progressing successfully in their coursework and are logging into their classes every school day.
They’ll be required to complete assignments, interact weekly and follow any additional attendance requirements for specific courses.
The four-page policy under consideration explains the Warm Springs Cyber Academy vision and mission, eligibility, attendance requirements, diplomas and graduation and extracurricular activities in depth.
It also addresses reasons for removal, withdrawal from the class, student support, counseling and guidance, family responsibilities, technology and other issues.
Second reading and adoption
The full policy can be found on the county school website. A second reading and approval of the policy will be at an upcoming school board meeting.
Penner said that the county policy and the virtual learning program they adopt must also be approved by the West Virginia Department of Education before it can proceed.