The new Hood River Valley School District Virtual Academy is up and running, Supt. Charlie Beck told the school board Wednesday evening, and has 16 students enrolled so far.
The program is starting out small, with eight credit recovery students and eight original credit students (mainly those who have been expelled or are medically fragile).
"We expect to open it up to regular students Jan. 31," Beck said. "Interest in the program comes virtually everywhere I go. There is a waiting group of maybe 30-40 who are definitely interested."
Beck estimates that the virtual academy could eventually attract as many as 100 students.
The program uses online instructors so staffing needs are minimal: a halftime secretary one halftime instructor. Beck has been developing the virtual school with Rod Hasty, who has taught credit recovery at Hood River Valley High School, and Karen Neitzel, HRVHS principal.
State school funding covers the cost of the Virtual Academy for students who are currently enrolled; once it opens up to other interested students it will charge at the following rate:
$375 per credit for in-district students who are already taking the maximum number of credits allowed for by the state, who desire to take advanced-level classes not offered by the school;
$100 per credit for in-district credit recovery students who are already taking the maximum number of credits allowed for by the state;
$400 per credit for out-of-district, home-schooled or other interested persons.
Those fees will enable the Virtual Academy to operate at a self-sustaining level, at no cost to the school district.
Beck came to Hood River County School District from the Bend/La Pine District, which had a "very successful" virtual school program, and he wanted to bring that same success to Hood River.
"The goal is to provide educational opportunities for students beyond the traditional classroom," Beck said. "There are students who don't fit the traditional sitting-in-rows, 30-student classrooms, or the 8-4 schedule; this is an opportunity for those students to get an education in their own way.
"On the other end, there are students who are capable of doing a full schedule and want to take Mandarin Chinese, or other advanced-level class not offered by the school district," he said. "It's an opportunity for us to reach out to students in a number of ways and give them an alternative."
The school board was also told that total district enrollment has increased by 84 students, with the largest number at Hood River Middle School. Beck said that consequently, a full-time teaching position has been added to HRMS and a half-time teaching position each has been added to Mid Valley, West Side and May Street elementary schools.
The cost for those positions is covered by the associated increase in state funding, which is based on enrollment.
In executive session, the school board members also approved the annual evaluation for Supt. Charlie Beck.
Board members were unanimous in their support of Beck's leadership in the goals he had set for himself: developing a professional learning community climate in the district, establishing a balanced and sustainable budget and launching a long-range comprehensive plan in the areas of curriculum/instruction, facilities and budget/finance.
The school board's next regular meeting/work session is Oct. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the district office.