By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Hall may create virtual charter school
Placeholder Image

Traditional classroom learning might become a thing of the past for Hall County Schools.

As the district incorporates more technology, officials are investigating the possibility of a virtual charter school for grades sixth through 12th.

Online courses would be offered not just for remedial credit, as they are now, but also for initial credit.

"Probably what would happen is a student would still be enrolled at (her home school), but wherever our hub is, that could be set up elsewhere," said Eloise Barron, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning at Hall County Schools. "We’d probably start small and start it at one of the schools."

In an email to The Times, Superintendent Will Schofield said a virtual school would be more economical than the traditional school model. He plans to present the idea to the school board at the next meeting.

Barron said moving toward a virtual charter school would require the school board to appeal to the state for seat-time waivers, which would allow students to learn outside of the classroom, and for students to earn the initial credit instead of recovery credit.

Forsyth County schools opened a similar school last year. iAchieve Virtual Academy is designed as a completely online school modeled after similar college programs.

"It’s all virtual. They never come to a building except to take the mandated state assessments (the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, End of Course Tests and the Georgia High School Graduation Test)," said Susan Atkins, Forsyth County assistant director of student support services and iAchieve Virtual Academy.

Schofield envisions a slightly different idea for the Hall County virtual school.

"Students would show up at a physical location for at least a limited portion of the day," he said. "The school would have subject specialist teachers in all of the core areas. ... Students would spend a lot of time working independently, utilizing social networking or in small cross-curricular groups."

Atkins said students must withdraw from their home school and enroll in iAchieve to be a student there. The courses are taught online by Forsyth County teachers, who are paid depending on the number of students in their classes.

About 200 students enrolled in iAchieve last year and 139 have enrolled for the 2011 school year. Twelve students graduated in May as iAchieve’s first senior class.

The school is geared toward students who are high achieving, Atkins said, such as those who dance with professional ballets in New York, homebound students who cannot get to a building or those who have to work.

"It is available for anyone in the state, but there is a tuition for those who come out of district," Atkins said.

She said though iAchieve isn’t the school for everyone — some students withdrew last year and went back to their home school — it is met with high praise from area families.

In the Hall school, Schofield said students would be able to learn about the arts and career pathways as well as gain college credit through their virtual classes.

"If the board gives us a green light in the coming months, we will develop this school very quickly utilizing team members who are able to problem solve and evolve as they go," he said.

Barron said Schofield had the idea for such a school several weeks ago, and the ideas kept flowing this week at the Georgia Association of Education Leaders summer conference in Jekyll Island.

"He is an innovative man and he keeps us jumping, putting feet to his ideas," she said. "This is a dream we haven’t developed, but it’s definitely where we’re headed."

Regional events