Officials log off on Virtual Academy plans

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By Dwane Wilder

CAMPBELL COUNTY—Campbell County pulled the plug Tuesday night on its proposed virtual academy, which had been on hold since early August because of insufficient documentation and paperwork required by the state.

Board officials unanimously agreed to withdraw from a contract with K-12 Virtual Schools, LLC to operate the academy.

With that vote, the ball is now rolling on a legal process that may take a few weeks to complete.

Earlier this summer, school board member Eugene Lawson was the only district representative to vote against the academy. Lawson expressed concerns about the quality of instruction that students would receive in a virtual setting — especially after hearing about Union County’s low test scores the past two years.

“[The state] has basically told [Director of Schools Donnie] Poston that you can have a virtual school, but it would be open only to Campbell County students,” said Board of Education Chairman Rector Miller. “I just really believe that [the state] didn’t want it to exist. They won’t give us an answer. They keep putting us off. We keep hearing behind the scenes that they don’t want it. We’ve got to do what’s best for our students.”

The cyber school was proposed to be a model of Union County’s virtual academy, which has nearly 4,000 students enrolled from all across the state. However, less than 50 of those students actually live inside the Union County line.

The deal Campbell County cut earlier this summer was for K-12 to keep 96 percent of the state’s Better Education Program Funds for each pupil enrolled in the program — estimated to be $5,200 per student — for the cost of operating the virtual academy. Campbell County planned to use the remaining four percent of BEP funds per student for hiring eight additional school resource officers.

With a pool of 50 or fewer Campbell County students to draw from, board members felt it best to terminate the contract with K-12.

Poston missed Tuesday’s meeting because of an illness, but Miller said he spoke with the director that morning about the status of the virtual academy.

“He didn’t feel very good about it,” said Miller.

In other business Tuesday night, the board approved the addition of Honors classes in English I, II and III; Biology I; Algebra I, II and III; Geometry; and Physics at Campbell County High School and an Advanced Placement class in Physics at CCHS.

The Honors classes will be weighted one-half point, while the advanced placement class would be weighted one point.