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School district exploring online education option

By Staff | Nov 19, 2009

Members of the Lee County School Board are debating whether to offer students scheduled to receive alternative education the opportunity to do their assignments online from home.
If the plan becomes a reality, students who fall behind academically or are in trouble at their traditional school could use an online program, such as the district’s NovaNet system, to finish their education.
“In the future our parents might be able to look at the option of having their student stay home,” said Superintendent James Browder. “What this would do is give parents another choice if a youngster has been in trouble.”
After presenting his idea to the board, Browder added that the state’s largest school is online. The Florida Virtual School has 16,000 students and can be accessed from any home computer.
The proposal was discussed shortly after the board voted 4-0 to fire a teacher’s aid at Royal Palm Exceptional School in Fort Myers after two students engaged in sexual acts inside a classroom.
According to a report from the state’s Division of Administrative Hearings, Thomas McCoy had been reading ESPN.com as the students engaged in the acts.
This week a Cape Coral student, who also attended Royal Palm, was charged with aggravated assault after beating a fellow student.
Implementing a program for outside-the-school study could be an alternative for some at-risk students.
“It wouldn’t be the only way we do business, but in the interest of providing a quality experience, you might want to consider some technology options to alternate placement,” Browder said.
A major issue of enrolling students in an online, home-based program is whether they will have parent supervision.
Board Member Elinor Scricca suggested that parents sign a contract promising to work with their children a specific number of hours each night or week.
“There would be a contract with the parents who would guarantee that there would be supervision at home,” she said.
Board Member Jeanne Dozier said the district would have to study the legalities of offering such a program and how the students could affect the district’s standing.
“They would be enrolled in our system and that would be a concern,” she said.
Dozier said she would support implementing a home-based program for some students, especially for those who exhibit inappropriate behavior.
“We have students who are 12 years old and getting suspended and expelled for inappropriate touching, sexual harassment or bullying,” she said. “A lot of these kids don’t realize the behavior they are exhibiting is inappropriate. No one has taught them what they should or shouldn’t do.”