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Registration for 'virtual classes' will begin Monday

Sunday, May 6, 2007

SIKESTON -- Missouri public, private and home schooled students can begin on Monday applying online for the state's first "virtual classes."

Set to begin the first week of August, the "virtual classes" will offer a wide array of courses for Missouri students in grades K-5 and 9-12.

"We will go live on Monday morning. It's not a first-come, first-serve basis. They don't have to register on Monday," said Curt Fuchs, director of Virtual Education for the state.

Online registration opens at 8 a.m. Monday and closes at 8 a.m. May 29. Applications may be submitted only through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Web site.

Each student, family or school that applies should submit a single application for each student. The selection of students will be through a lottery process after the May 29 closing date.

"We're doing it by region in the first round," Fuchs said about the selection process. "For example, the Southeast region, which is from the Bootheel to St. Louis, makes up 7.4 percent of the population of students."

State education officials will see how many students applied and how many are from each region. Basically, it's supply and demand, Fuchs said.

The Missouri Virtual Instruction Program (MoVIP) was authorized by state law enacted last year. Private vendors selected by the state will offer the online courses to students throughout the state. The classes will be taught by teachers who hold Missouri licenses.

"There's a real need (for the program) when you think of all the areas this will serve," Fuchs said.

The program is designed to help students who are homebound for medical reasons or those who need only a specific class like physics or foreign language that isn't offered at their school, Fuchs said.

"For the home school parents, this gives them an opportunity to have a curriculum and certified teachers," Fuchs said.

Fuchs noted public school students who are registering should work with their schools first to ensure their credits will meet the school's curriculum.

MoVIP isn't competing with schools, Fuchs said.

"We are a supplemental program and simply fitting a niche. ... It's a partnership," Fuchs said.

Local educators see the virtual program as a plus for all students. "For the next year, we're not going to use it, but we sure wouldn't rule it out. They may have something on there that we wouldn't possibly have," said Kelly R-4 Superintendent Don Moore.

Moore said the program provides another option for students.

"If we had five kids who needed a class we didn't have, we wouldn't hire one teacher for five kids it would be great for those students," Moore said.

Missouri will be the 25th state to offer a virtual school program. State funds of about $5.2 million will make the MoVIP courses available at no cost for approximately 2,500 full- and part-time students. If the state-funded slots fill up, additional spaces will be available on a tuition basis. A separate registration period will be offered for tuition-based MoVIP courses.

At the elementary level, courses will be available in communication arts, math, science, social studies, art, music, Spanish, French and technology literacy.

At the high school level, course offerings will include English, algebra, geometry, biology, chemistry, American and world history, economics, Spanish and Latin; plus Advanced Placement courses in English literature, calculus, physics, U.S. history and art history.

Sikeston Senior High School principal Tom Williams said at least one student is interested in enrolling in the program. Ultimately it's up to the individual student if they want to enroll, but Williams said he thinks it will only benefit the individual.

"I think it really does allow a lot of students an opportunity to attend school and meet their own personal needs that maybe we can't do at our school," Williams said.

To register, visit www.dese.mo.gov/movip.