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Virtual School

Only 1 applicant for new Commonwealth of Massachusetts Virtual School

An educational collaborative that serves 50,000 students in towns west of Boston is now the only applicant in Massachusetts vying to open the state’s second virtual school.

The Education Cooperative hopes to open the TEC Connections Academy (TECCA) Commonwealth Virtual School next fall. Like the Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School, the state’s only existing virtual school, the K-12 school would use the Internet to serve students across the state who may otherwise struggle in brick-and-mortar schools.

If the state’s education board approves the school’s application in February, school leaders would aim to enroll 1,500 students next year, said Executive Director Elizabeth McGonagle. The Greenfield cyber school has about 500 students, even though it could enroll up to 750.

The new proposed virtual school would partner with Connections Academy, an online curriculum provider owned by Pearson. The Education Cooperative has worked with the company to run an online program for its member districts since 2009.

In August, six groups completed the first step by sending a letter of intent to the state. Final proposals for two available virtual school certificates were due Monday.

The state’s department of elementary and secondary education declined to name any applicants Monday, but five of the six eligible groups told The Recorder they did not apply.

Two collaboratives in western Massachusetts — the Collaborative for Educational Services and the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative, who had planned to apply together — will focus on building online learning programs for its member districts. It may aim to start a full-time program in coming years, said Casey Daigle-Matos, who headed up the project there.

Boston Public Schools is doing the same, said spokesman Brian Ballou. School leaders want to try building internal programs before starting a full school, he said.

Springfield Public Schools had considered applying with special education organization The Children’s Study Home. But the school district ultimately decided against it, said spokeswoman Azell Cavaan.

And superintendents from two other groups — the North Middlesex Regional School District and a joint effort by two central Massachusetts collaboratives — said they also were not applying.

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

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