Greenfield virtual school starts new year
GREENFIELD — While six potential applicant groups across the state continue to pull together their future cyber school plans, Massachusetts’ first and only state-authorized virtual school began another school year last week in Greenfield.
The Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School is now in its fourth year, although it became independent of the Greenfield School Department this July.
Officials say the school has just over 400 students from across the state, including nine from Greenfield. The school plans to keep enrolling through September and could bring in as many as 350 more students, although the number of Greenfield students would also need to increase.
In some ways, the Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School is in a very different place now than it was last year.
A law passed in January gave the state more oversight over virtual schools. Instead of the Greenfield School Committee running the school, an independent board of trustees now calls the shots. The school has its own financial structure and was able to increase tuition, which officials hope will mean more services for students.
But in other ways, it may seem like business as usual. The board of trustees contracted with the Greenfield School Department to continue handling administrative services. And K12, a for-profit education company from Virginia, will continue to provide curriculum and teachers.
Ed Berlin, chairman of the board of trustees, said he’d like to see the marketing effort expanded to try to increase the number of students.
He’s also eager to finalize a meeting time with state officials who want to discuss the school’s bylaws and draft contract with K12 — documents that the board submitted for review earlier this summer.
Since its inception in 2010, Greenfield Superintendent Susan Hollins has said the school has been a haven for students who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to perform well in public brick-and-mortar schools.
The school almost closed earlier this year, but parents rallied in support and the Greenfield School Committee voted to keep it open. Some parents left the school for good during those three weeks of uncertainty.
Virtual school officials say they’re focused only on the Greenfield school and are not looking over their shoulders at potential competitors who will apply this fall to open their own virtual schools.
But it’s fair to say that this could be a trial year for some Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School parents, who may have as many as two additional in-state cyber school options to send their students to next year. Students’ host districts, not the individual families, pay for the virtual school tuition.