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School system considering expanding virtual school

The Butler County School System hopes to lure homeschoolers back to the fold by offering a virtual academic program starting this fall.

Homeschool students living in the Butler County School District could take all their classes online, but be registered as district students, Superintendent Amy Bryan said.

“This is just one more option,” Bryan said. “Different families have different needs regarding education, and this is another way that we can serve Butler County families.”

The virtual school would be open to students from kindergarten to 8th grade. The system already offers ACCESS Distance Learning to students in 9th through 12th grades. Fifteen students are currently enrolled.

Bryan said ACCESS is a state funded program that has proven successful in Butler County.

“It’s working great and I don’t see any reason to discontinue it for a more expensive option,” she said.

The new virtual school will cost approximately $3,500 to $4,000 per student depending on the curriculum selected by the school system. The fee would be paid by the school system, which would receive funding from the state per student that would more than cover the cost. Bryan said the system receives about $7,000 per student in state and federal funding.

To be eligible for the virtual school, students must have Internet access, a computer and a parent facilitator. Students would also be required to take a state assessment once a year.

A major benefit to the system’s virtual school is that online tutors will be available.

“That increased the price per student for us, but to me that was important,” Bryan said. “For a parent trying to teach all the subjects to their student that will be a tremendous asset.”

Students enrolled in the virtual school would also be eligible to participate in the school system’s extracurricular activities, such as football and band.

Bryan said a number of families have opted to leave the school system since April to homeschool.

Bryan has reached out to the county’s homeschool community for feedback. She said it’s still too early to know how many homeschoolers will choose to take part in the program.

“We’re very early in the process, but I think this a very doable program and it might be just the thing that some families need,” Bryan said.

Bryan is holding a series of meetings each Friday until Oct. 2 in hopes of garnering feedback from those interested in the virtual school. The meetings are at noon in her office 211 School Highlands Rd.