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Virtual School

‘Uncertainty’ hangs over virtual school contract delay

GREENFIELD — The Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School is operating without a signed contract with curriculum provider K12 because state officials have not yet approved it — a delay the school’s officials call problematic.

The school’s board of trustees agreed in principle in July to pay for-profit company K12 $4,700 per student in exchange for teachers, program administrators, online learning tools and physical course materials. The state’s department of elementary and secondary education required a draft copy of the contract by Aug. 1 for review.

But state officials have not yet told the trustees about revisions to the contract, which puts a “level of uncertainty” over the school, said Ed Berlin, the trustees’ chairman. He said officials said they’ve been too busy to get to the contract.

“We had nailed down this whole relationship but now it’s not nailed down,” he said at a Tuesday board meeting. K12 could technically stop services because of the lack of a contract, he said. Greenfield School Superintendent Susan Hollins, who is serving as the cyber school’s administrator under contract through the town School Department, said the situation has complicated teaching hiring, as well.

State spokesman J.C. Considine said that the state has been “diligently reviewing the contract.”

“We had thought we’d have that review completed by the start of the school year,” he said. “However, due to the need for revisions to the contract, our review is not yet complete.”

K12 has partnered with the Greenfield cyber school for three years and it’s unlikely the delay will cause them to drop out now.

In an email Wednesday, spokesman Jeff Kwitowski said that the Virginia-based company “is fully committed to the school.”

Enrollment rising

The school is receiving student applications faster than it can process the data, so there are actually about 460 students enrolled in the school, Hollins told the board Tuesday.

Last week, she had said there were about 400. Data shows nine Greenfield students officially enrolled, but three more just signed up, she said.

“We are just about full for the first benchmark of having 500 students,” said Hollins. “And then we will continue to review students and will probably, in October, accept 100 more students.”

The school can enroll up to 750 students in all grades, but at least 2 percent must be from Greenfield.

Its focus groups include students with medical or developmental conditions that make it difficult to attend brick-and-mortar schools, as well as those who are pregnant, feel bullied, seeking advanced courses or are in training for competitive arts or sports programs.

Board members are planning future marketing initiatives including brochures and a potential trip to a state conference.

Berlin said that marketing will allow the school to get its name out as a viable option for parents and students. There may be two other virtual schools in February vying for students with Greenfield.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
cshores@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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