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Crenshaw County Virtual School slated for May

With the pull of technology becoming more and more prevalent in society today, the Crenshaw County School System has decided to join the ranks of other school systems by adding a virtual school to their curriculum.

“We had a board meeting on March 24 and we passed the virtual policy,” said Superintendent of Crenshaw County Schools, Boyd English.

“It’s going to be rolled out as the Crenshaw County Virtual School, supported by Odysseyware online education support. It’s going to broaden our curriculum. Right now, there are three things we always focus on in the Crenshaw County School System and that’s curriculum, assessment and instruction.”

English had the idea of contracting with Odysseyware after attending a lunch and learn in Dothan hosted by the program. During the presentation, the group explained the process of using the virtual school and gave testimonials from other school systems that found the program beneficial. After hearing more about it, English believed it to be a perfect fit for Crenshaw County.

English explained that the program will work similarly to that of the working co-op program in place in many schools. Much like the students who have jobs and are able to leave school for those jobs, students enrolled in the virtual school will have times where they are allowed to leave school in order to perform tasks and assignments for their online classes. For those students only enrolled in the virtual school, the process will resemble online collegiate courses where students must report to the virtual school lab in order to take tests, complete quizzes and to occasionally check in on progress.

“When I had co-op back in high school, you would sign out and go to work four days a week. Well, one day a week you had to go to the co-op classroom and do lessons on how to be a good employee and things like that. It’s the same model,” English said.

“Now instead of going to work, you’re going to the classroom to take tests and quizzes.”

The classroom will be located at the Board of Education Central Office, and according to English, Crenshaw County is the only school system in the state that will be supported through Odysseyware as a virtual school. Instructors for the program will be supplied by Odysseyware.

English said that the program is looking at having at least one career technical opportunity for the first year of operation. Courses will be customized to meet the needs of the system.

Curriculum can be focused on career technical courses, core academics, fine arts and other options such as those.

Since Crenshaw County is smaller in size than other school systems, English explains that the size factor keeps the system from receiving as much state funding. Regardless, English strives to make sure that the students of Crenshaw County receive just as many opportunities as students in larger school systems.

“We believe that our kids deserve the same education that they do. This is going to allow us to offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and we can offer other courses that we can’t offer during the school day at the brick and mortar schools,” he said.

“We couldn’t broaden our curriculum without doing something like a virtual school. Now, we can broaden it in career tech, in our foreign languages and with some other pathways. But what we’re excited about most is trying to offer AP courses for our students that we were not able to previously.”

The current package created by Odysseyware for Crenshaw County Schools offers 140 open enrollments, and there will be no cost for students in Crenshaw County to be part of the virtual school.

“We want to invest in our students and this is something that we feel like we should offer anyway. Why should we charge students in Crenshaw County for something that we want to offer as we broaden the curriculum?” English said.

Students will be able to complete an entire degree online if need be, according to English, and those students who do choose to be 100 percent virtual will still be accredited and can still receive a diploma from Crenshaw County Schools.

English and the schools plan to meet with Odysseyware on April 27 and perform training exercises to familiarize themselves with the program.  A kick off meeting will be held on May 3, tentatively, and will offer parents and students an orientation as well as a virtual, interactive presentation to demonstrate how the school will work.

“We feel like we’re keeping up with the demands of the future of education, and we want to be innovative and trend-setters, and I feel like this is going to allow us to do it,” English said.

“It’s giving them the devices they need to compete with anybody in the state and anybody in the country. It will provide rigor that will allow our students to test well on the ACT and to enter college and careers.”