Archive for Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Virtual Charter School receives state accreditation

December 12, 2001

Basehor-Linwood Virtual Charter School is again receiving recognition for its success with alternative learning programs.

This time the recognition comes by being the first school of its type to receive state accreditation.

School district officials said they recently received a letter from the state granting the charter school accreditation.

The news came as a surprise for Virtual Charter School director Brenda DeGroot because the school never sought the accreditation.

"I knew what we had created was something very good," DeGroot said. "It was our goal to be accredited some day. We just didn't know we crossed all the T's and dotted all the I's."

The Virtual Charter School is an alternative source of education for home-school students. Course work is done via the Internet.

Currently, there are more than 30 charter schools in the state.

This is not the first time the school has received high praise from the state.

In August, Basehor-Linwood School District Superintendent Cal Cormack testified before a Kansas State Senate subcommittee concerning the progress of charter schools in the state.

Basehor-Linwood was one of only three Kansas school districts to be represented at the hearings.

Since the hearings, state officials reviewed information on the charter school.

They were so impressed, the normal waiting period for accreditation was bypassed, school district officials said.

The charter school will start the official accreditation process on Jan. 16.

The charter school will work with state education officials on designating weaknesses and targeting areas for improvement during the process, school district officials said.

The school district has offered the charter school since 1998.

Since its beginning, the charter school has continually added new students. This year, the program has 366 students.

Students in the program are offered the same curriculum as students attending public schools.

"Our students at the Virtual Charter School have the same text as students in the district," DeGroot said. "They follow the same courses that students in the district follow."

And while the school's enrollment is expected to increase, DeGroot said she does not expect charter school's to replace the public school systems.

"I think it will continue to be an alternative way to receive an education," she said.

The rigors of the charter school can also be more challenging than a normal classroom setting.

DeGroot said students in the charter school have limited interaction with their teachers and must pass a final exam before a proctor to receive a passing grade in their courses.

"They have to prove what they did in their home was their work," DeGroot said. "This is not easy and we tell kids that. It's just different than sitting in a classroom and taking instructions."

The charter school is not only useful to the students enrolled but also the parents of home-school children.

DeGroot said the majority of parents teaching their children at home do a great job, but the Virtual Charter School can give them a blueprint for the students' work.

"What I think the Virtual Charter School has given is a little more assurance that they are at grade level," she said.

As part of the program, students receive a computer that enables them to do their class work at home.

The state pays for the program so no money earmarked for the school district is used for the Virtual Charter School, district officials said.

Although the success of the program has been recognized, DeGroot said the school will continue to improve.

She said school officials would continue to monitor the technological side of the school and look into the possibility of adding web cams for students.

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