Starting this coming school year, Phenix City students will have the option of taking classes online and still graduate from Central High School.
The Phenix City Board of Education on Thursday approved superintendent Randy Wilkes' recommended policy that creates a virtual school for students in grades 9-12.
Board president Brad Baker, vice president Kelvin Redd and members Ricky Carpenter, Fran Ellis and Mesha Patrick supported the initiative in the 5-0 vote. Board members Zara Parham and Paul Stamp were absent from the meeting.
Dubbed the V-School, it is designed for students who are:
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Pursuing a non-traditional career, such as the performing arts, that takes them away from the building
Dealing with medical issues
At risk of dropping out for reasons other than lack of credits.
Wilkes added another type of student in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer.
"The ones that are just bored in the classroom and would rather work at their own pace," he said. "Quite frankly, we already have accelerated students interested in this."
Such students who want to attend college early might find the traditional high school schedule conflicts with the college of their choice or a job, so the V-School gives them the necessary flexibility, Wilkes said.
All of which is aimed at helping Phenix City improve its graduation rate, which was 81 percent in 2014, the most recent year available, compared to Alabama's state average of 86 percent.
"Everything we do, there's more than one remedy, because kids come in all shapes and sizes," Wilkes said. "Their needs and desires are different, so as a school system, we need to meet those differences."
The V-School, according to the policy, will "provide motivated, independent learners the opportunity to earn their Alabama High School Diploma through flexible, personalized learning experiences available online - anytime, anywhere." The online courses will have "the same level of rigor and adhere to the same standards" as the classroom curriculum, the policy says.
V-School students don't have to reside in Phenix City, but they must complete a transfer application and have their hardship request approved, Wilkes said. The enrollment capacity is 24 students for the one teacher designated as the coordinator. To be eligible, students in grades 9-12 must:
Meet all other requirements for enrollment in Phenix City Public Schools
Have consistent, daily access to the Internet (minimum 1.5 Mbs)
Be on track to graduate
In their previous academic year, have an attendance rate of at least 90 percent, a grade-point average of at least 2.0 and no more than two intermediate or greater office referrals.
The V-School won't be completely virtual. Orientation, tests and career preparedness must be completed at Central High School, so V-School students should expect to report to the campus 2-3 times per week, the policy says. Some classes also might require attendance in the building, Wilkes said.
HOW TO APPLY
For an application or more information about Phenix City's virtual school, call Central High School at 334-298-3626.