As education budgets are tightened and teachers are forced to do more with less, education officials are seeking innovative and cost-saving solutions to everyday problems. In Alabama, overcrowding of many of its facilities is becoming a major concern. In Baldwin County, education officials have crafted a plan they feel may be the silver bullet to one of their biggest problems – A virtual high school.
The district’s school board discussed the idea at a recent meetings following a presentation by district Superintendent, Alan Lee. Lee presented the board with a proposal to create what he said would be the state’s first public high school in cyberspace.
The high school, to be called the Baldwin County Digital Renaissance High School, would be created in partnership with the Troy Access Support Center.
“As one of the largest and fastest-growing counties in the state, we are equipped to create a model virtual high school that will meet the diverse needs of our students and prepare them for any post-secondary path they might choose,” the introductory letter said.
The advantages, Lee said, include creating flexible, personalized learning options for students who struggle in the traditional classroom environment; easing overcrowded classrooms; and improving the graduation rate. “There are children who don’t do well in high school for a variety of reasons,” he told the board.
Students who are at risk of dropping out may be able to stay on track with the online learning option, said board member Angie Swiger. Also, Lee said, many students who want a faster path to graduation could take the online courses over the summer break and graduate early.
The introductory letter noted that 31 states and Washington, D.C., already have full-time online schools, with about 275,000 students enrolled in 2011-12, according to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.
Lee said that he had also sent the proposal to Tommy Bice, the state superintendent of education.
Homeschooled students would be able to enroll in the virtual school and earn a degree from an accredited high school, Lee said. There are about 200 Baldwin County high school students who are homeschooled.
“We could potentially enroll students across the state,” Lee said, but for now, the plan before the school board is only for residents of Baldwin County.