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Virtual school makes contract with K12

GREENFIELD — Virginia-based education company K12 will provide curriculum services for the newly independent Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School for at least the next two school years.

Ed Berlin, chairman of the virtual school’s board of trustees, said that the parties have agreed to a draft contract, which was sent Wednesday to the state for approval. It’s a contract that he said cuts K12’s administrative fee (previously 15 percent) in half, continues to allow unlimited free cyber courses for Greenfield School Department students and clearly outlines precisely what the company will do for the virtual school.

The Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School — previously a part of the Greenfield School Department but now its own entity — will use the Internet to teach students across the state. The school will receive $6,625 in tuition from each of its students’ host districts and will use that money to pay K12, the Greenfield School Department and the Town of Greenfield for services next year.

K12, as it has done for the past three years, will provide curriculum services: teachers, program administrators, online learning tools and physical course materials. Berlin said that the trustees understand the exact services the company will provide and at what cost.

Under the current agreement, Berlin said that the school will pay the for-profit company just over $4,700 per student — with about one-fifth of that going directly to the school’s teachers. If there are 500 students, that amount will be about $2.35 million.

Its 15 percent administrative services fee has been slashed in half because the virtual school is now contracting with the Greenfield School Department for management of the school, said Berlin. K12 provides a program administrator and curriculum management, but the virtual school, through the Greenfield School Department central office staff, will have the final say.

Berlin said the virtual school board will need to make a decision about its future with K12 by October 2014. Although the contract is for three years, the virtual school can opt out after two years if it lets K12 know by that October.

Eventually, said Berlin, he would like the school to be self-sufficient and hiring its own teachers and administrators. But at this point, he said, the school needs to continue operating and Greenfield School Department and K12 know how to run the school and its curriculum.

The contract, which the state’s department of elementary and secondary education will need to approve, will allow the virtual school to continue offering free tuition for Greenfield students, said Berlin. And the school department’s brick-and-mortar students can take an unlimited number of online classes that they may not have otherwise been able to, such as AP Russian, when in previous years this was capped at 100 per year.

Berlin said that over the coming year, the trustees will closely watch how the relationship with K12 works and if it’s a structure that they want to continue going forward. They’ll also be doing the same for the other two contracted relationships — administrative services provided by the Greenfield School Department and financial services done by the town.

“We will be looking at everything,” said Berlin. “(We) need to look at the structure of the school to see ... (if this) is the best way to do it.”

While media outlets and politicians and other states have raised questions about K12’s practices, Greenfield school officials have said they’ve been pleased with the relationship the past three years. The Greenfield school has always been locally run and has contracted with K12 to provide curriculum services only, and that arrangement will continue.

K12 spokesman Jeff Kwitowski said that the negotiations have been “extremely positive and productive.”

“We are all focused on launching a high-quality online school for students and families,” he said.

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

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