Students in grades nine through 12 and adults wanting to continue their education have the option of enrolling in TEEN Virtual Academy, an online program with classes beginning in August.
Kansas Department of Education gave written approval to the program last week, according to Lena Kleiner, executive director of Technology Excellence in Education Network.
?Now that we are approved,? Kleiner said, ?we can go ahead and start getting the word out, advertising and letting people know this is something that will be happening in the fall.?
TEEN, a consortium of five schools?Hillsboro, Marion, Centre, Peabody and Herington?developed in the early 1990s, will oversee the virtual program.
?The goal is to offer this option to students in our area, as well as students outside of our districts,? she said. ?(It?s) a quality option where they can continue their education and be ready for their futures.?
TEEN Virtual Academy involves all of the consortium schools except Centre.
?Centre operates its own successful virtual program already,? Kleiner said. ?They?re remaining on their own to do their program.?
Students will be able carry a full load of virtual classes, Kleiner said.
TEEN Virtual Academy can also meet educational needs for adult students, Kleiner said, especially since the Marion County Learning Center in Hillsboro has closed.
?Adult students will have a local option that they can go to for continuing their educational needs,? she said. ?Because otherwise, if they want to be in a learning center, they will have to go out of town to do that.?
TEEN Virtual Academy will enable students to take online courses anywhere they are able to connect with the Internet. Plus, online classes are adaptable to a particular student?s schedule, Kleiner added.
?For now, the plan is that students will be doing all of the (online) coursework from home,? she said.
Kleiner expects an important aspect to enhance the quality of this new virtual program.
?Every class that we?re going to have for virtual is going to be backed by a content-area, grade-level teacher for that course,? Kleiner said.
?For example, if a student in the virtual program is taking English II, the teacher that will be providing that curriculum…(is) an actual English teacher?not just a certified teacher in Kansas, but a grade-level, content-area teacher.?
The process to establish TEEN Virtual Academy began several months ago.
Kleiner contacted KSDE to learn about the steps involved in establishing a virtual program.
She said more than 90 virtual programs are operating in Kansas, with Centre being one of those.
?(KSDE) kind of liked the idea of a consortium being a virtual program rather than each individual school district having its own,? she said.
With the official name submitted?TEEN Virtual Academy?the next step was to answer 36 narrative questions as part of a longer form. Those questions involved procedures planned for enrollment, structure, curriculum and count days.
Kleiner submitted the completed application to KSDE through email along with signatures from the superintendents of the participating school districts.
On May 22, she participated in a group phone call with a KSDE consultant and others wanting to get virtual programs approved.
?If (the consultant) had questions about something we wrote that wasn?t very clear, she would ask you how you?re going to do that?. We had everything pretty straight forward and ready and the way we wanted it.?
After the phone call, Kleiner emailed the consultant and was told TEEN Virtual Academy was approved. The official letter arrived this past week.
School counselors and Kleiner, as virtual program director, will advise students about which classes to take.
?An individualized learning plan will be created for each student and enrollment will be based on the course needs of that student,? Kleiner said.
?The requirement for the number of courses will be 21 credit hours for your typical high school graduation requirement for Kansas.?
Grade-level content area teachers will teach the online courses.
?We?ve got the support of our local teachers,? Kleiner said. ?I think of it as an extension of their own classroom. What they?re doing with their students, they?ll continue to do with the virtual students.?
TEEN purchased Edge?nuity, a video research-based online curriculum for the four school districts that are part of TEEN Virtual Academy.
?Edgenuity has core classes, but it also has some electives,? Kleiner said.
While Edgenuity will be used for the virtual courses, she said, teachers in the participating districts also can use it for blended learning.
?I think that?s wonderful,? Kleiner added.
Electives already being taught online through the TEEN schools can be taken in the virtual program.
?Anything from Human Body to Journalism or General Computer Apps,? Kleiner said. ?There?s lots of business courses in here. There?s several FACTS classes that are going to be new ones offered.?
Students will have to have Internet access.
?High speech would be the best for them to run the Edgenuity videos for them, which these days is not all that hard to come by as much as it used to be,? she said.
Students will be provided a laptop if needed.
?The virtual program and the laptop?that?s all free,? she said.
Canvas, a classroom management system, will be used in the TEEN Virtual Acad?emy. Students will access their classes, post and get their assignments online through Canvas.
Kleiner said TEEN purchased Canvas for use by all of the districts. The consortium is moving from using Blackboard to using Canvas. As of June 30, districts will no longer use Blackboard.
Kleiner said state funding for virtual programs, right now, is $5,000 per full-time virtual student age 19 and under.
?Virtual students will be required to be engaged and work on their virtual classes a minimum of 25 hours per week and make sufficient progress in the class,? she said.
If students are living in a particular district, such as USD 410, they would be a student of that district.
Out-of-district students can enroll in the TEEN Virtual Academy program as well.
?If they?re an out-of-district student, then they will be randomly assigned to one of the four districts,? Kleiner said.
Funding for adult students is based on credit hours completed.
?The funding for adult students is different?it?s $933 per credit hour passed,? she said. ?So for adult students, if they don?t pass (the course), we won?t get (state) funding for it.?
Funding received will go toward program expenses as well assessments for TEEN services.
?I think the way it?s going to work now is the money goes to the districts and then to TEEN to cover those things until there?s money made,? she said, adding that will depend on enrollment.
Kleiner said it?s hard to tell what the enrollment numbers will be or what the initial need will be in the communities.
Her enrollment goal is 20 to 25 for this next year.
?We would like for it to be a success from the beginning,? she said.
All participants will need to attend an orientation where they will receive instruction about how to use the laptops and the Edge?nuity and other classes offered.
Kleiner said she will communicate details about the orientation sessions once students have enrolled.
Those interested in enrolling or wanting more information should contact Kleiner through email at email@example.com, or call the USD 410 district office at 620-947-3184 or her cell phone at 620-877-0237.
Kleiner said she is willing to travel to the other communities, such as Herington, Marion or Peabody, for face-to-face informational meetings.
The first official day for class will be Aug. 24 for students who enroll in TEEN Virtual Academy.
?Enrollment can start now,? Kleiner said.