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District looks to online classes to aid enrollment

By Staff | Dec 9, 2009

Lee County is on track to expand its online schooling franchise through Florida Virtual School.
The school district has been missing out on the funds for full-time equivalent students since online classes have become more popular and readily available.
“The Lee County School District receives nothing for virtual instruction,” said Al Shilling, assistant director of Emerging Technology and Virtual Instruction.
Funding for the district comes from the state each year based on the number of full-time students.
Lee County was receiving a small stipend for the academic counseling behind choosing an online class, but Shilling said it is no longer taking place.
Local students currently have the option to use FLVS for class advancement or remediation, but Superintendent James Browder said a bill is likely be introduced to the Florida Legislature requiring all students to take at least one online course.
“We are trying to get on the front side of virtual education and start our own franchise,” he said. “My hope is that the virtual class is through us, otherwise we lose FTE numbers.”
Dr. Connie Jones, chief academic officer for the school district, said access to the virtual school cannot legally be denied to any Lee County student wanting to enroll in an online class. As a result the district is losing enrollment dollars.
“Through the franchise those students will be directed to our franchise. In the long run we are going to recoup and earn more money with a franchise,” she said.
A local franchise with FLVS would be targeted at students in grades 6-12, those in home schooling and the hospital bound.
Education experts anticipate that in the next 10 years 50 percent of all classroom seats in U.S. schools will be online, said Shilling.
In Lee County there are currently 1,047 students in grades 6-12 who are active part-time in 1,817 courses through FLVS. Shilling said 87 students are enrolled in full-time FLVS programs in grades 1-12.
Lee County’s franchise, expected to reach the board by January, would include online IB courses, virtual dual enrollment and career or technical courses.
It would also employ local teachers who undergo FLVS training and coordinate curriculum.
Lee County School Board Vice Chairwoman Elinor Scricca said she wants to see evidence that the online classes are rigorous enough for students.
“If we are going to embrace this, can we steer ourselves academically so that we are really serving our students and helping them really get the best out of the virtual instruction?” she asked.