Lawrence district cancels K12 Inc. contract

Lawrence school district Superintendent Rick Doll announced Monday that the district has taken the management of Lawrence Virtual High School over after the school posted a graduation rate last year of just 26.3 percent.

K12 Inc., the largest charter school company in the nation, will continue to be paid through the end of its contract, which expires June 30, but Doll said school district personnel have taken over operation of the school as of the start of the second semester. The school board will be asked to decide later this year whether to continue operating a virtual charter school.

“The reality is — and this isn’t in any way an excuse for K12’s management of that school, because that’s not acceptable — but the kids who tend to enroll in a virtual high school tend to come on board and then they may not take courses for very long and they leave,” Doll said after Monday night’s school board meeting. “It’s much more difficult to track them down. So that’s part of our issue.”

Doll made the announcement after the school board heard a report on the district’s overall graduation rate for 2013, the first year that included a full, four-year, cohort group from the virtual high school.

Counting just the two “brick-and-mortar” high schools — Lawrence High School and Free State High School — the district’s graduation rate would have been 90.9 percent, a few points higher than the statewide average, but the virtual high school’s performance dragged the overall number down to 84.2 percent. Which is slightly below the statewide average of 86 percent.

District officials have said about 90 percent of the virtual high school’s enrollment came from students outside Lawrence.

Lawrence also operates a virtual school for K-8 students, but that school has always been managed and staffed by the district. Both schools, however, use curriculum provided by K12 Inc.

The virtual high school had an enrollment last year of 292 students, including 34 seniors.