Archive for Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Virtual charter school steps closer to reality

January 13, 2004


Lack of public comment Monday didn't alarm Lawrence school board members as they cleared another hurdle toward development of a computer-based charter school.

"I would take it to mean there wasn't any vehement effort against it," said Leni Salkind, the board's vice president.

The district was required to conduct the public hearing -- even if nobody showed up -- before submitting a formal request for $2 million in state funding to plan and operate an online school.

The board took no action Monday but is expected to vote Jan. 26 on a formal petition for establishment of the charter school.

"It's an ambitious project," said Mike Eltschinger, a key author of the grant proposal and the district's supervisor of instructional technology.

If the state approves grant funding to the Lawrence district, the money would be allocated over the next three fiscal years. After that period, the district's charter school would need to be self-sufficient.

Computerized instruction would be provided to students in third through eighth grades in basic subjects of reading, writing, math, social studies and science. Students in private schools and home schools would be encouraged to enroll.

"It's just another component of what we need to do to make sure we're reaching students of all different needs," said Supt. Randy Weseman. "I think it's cost-effective."

District staff members have been working on the grant application since November. The application will be sent to the Kansas State Department of Education by Feb. 1.

The district's proposal would absorb one-fourth of $8 million the U.S. Department of Education sent to the state for development, design and operation of charter schools.

Under the proposal, the district would attempt to enroll 30 students in January 2005. Those students would help the district's staff work through technological kinks in the system.

Curriculum for all classes would be developed by teachers who also would provide online instruction.

Eltschinger said the long-term goal would be to expand courses to other grade levels.

"I anticipate that we will continue to develop online courses ... and eventually have a K through 12 program," he said.

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