Virtual school

Monday, March 13, 2006

Bills working their way through the Missouri Legislature would establish the Missouri Virtual Public School to enable students in kindergarten through 12th grade to take classes over the Internet.

Versions of these schools already exist in 12 states. Sponsors say this would be the first K-through-12 virtual school in the Midwest.

The bills call for the school to begin operating by July 1, 2007. Enrollment would be limited to 500 students the first year, increasing to as many as 1,000 students a few years later.

State Rep. Brian Baker, R-Belton, is the House sponsor. State Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, is the Senate sponsor.

They say the legislation is not intended to eliminate classroom teaching but to help students in special situations. For example, a highly motivated student in a small school district would be able to take courses not offered in his or her district. Students who are temporarily homebound also could benefit.

The legislation's supporters include the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education, the Missouri School Boards Association and the Missouri State Teachers Association.

The school district the student lives in would be required to provide supervision. The legislation, however, does not detail how that would be accomplished.

As a rule, the classroom provides the best learning environment. But for a motivated student who doesn't have the opportunity to take a particular class in school, virtual classes could provide new opportunities to learn.

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