DCSS plans virtual school policy hearing

The Demopolis City Schools System is working to establish a new virtual school policy that would guarantee a certain level of online course options for students.
The Demopolis Board of Education a first reading of the virtual school policy during a meeting Monday and a public hearing on the topic will be held on April 4, 5 p.m., at the BOE office. The public is invited to attend the hearing and learn more about the program and to offer comments.
In a law passed by the Alabama Legislature in 2015, every school in the state must establish a policy to offer virtual education options to high school students by the 2016-17 school year.
At this time, the board is working toward putting the policy in place, but according to Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff the policies involved in the system’s virtual schools will be implemented at a later date.
“Every school system must have a policy in place before the next school year,” Kallhoff said. “That doesn’t mean every school has to offer virtual school options. The premise is to make sure options are available for every child we serve.”
Students who have certain circumstances that prevent them from attending school could utilize virtual schools or a student who needs a specific class not offered within their own district could use it.
“If a student needs a certain science class or a foreign language they may be able to take that class through a virtual option,” Kallhoff said.
Demopolis schools already participate in ACCESS, a program that allows students to take classes that aren’t available locally, like advanced courses and electives. Most ACCESS courses are taught through web-based programs where students complete work and communicate with teachers online. Demopolis schools currently uses ACCESS as a way to help students with credit recovery.
“If a student fails a ninth grade math class, that student can work on that class through ACCESS while still doing the full course work their tenth-grade year,” Kallhoff said.
The virtual schools program would go beyond ACCESS to offer even more options for students, not just those who attend Demopolis City Schools, but also for other students in the area.
“By having a virtual school policy and coursework in place, we could, for example, extend options to home-school families who may want to take our classes online,” Kallhoff said.
Currently, the system is exploring its options for virtual school by meeting with vendors and other schools that have implemented programs. Kallhoff said there are three options for virtual school products: buying content and using system teachers, buying content and using the vendor’s teachers, or offering the coursework without a teacher where a student would take the class independently. There are also questions regarding who would be eligible to take the courses.
“Those are the things we are looking at now in terms of the procedures we will adopt for our virtual school program. It will cost money, but it could also make money,” Kallhoff said.
Based on the procedures adopted, Kallhoff said there could be virtual programs available where a student takes all or some of their coursework online. Students could also take a full load of classes and take an additional virtual class on their own time.
“The procedures are still to come and there is a lot of things to consider as we move forward. It’s all about meeting the needs of our students better than we do now,” Kallhoff said.
Other items discussed during the board meeting included:
• recognizing March Students of the Month. Westside Elementary School’s Student of the Month was Brennan Posey and Avake Jones was named Student of the Month at Demopolis Middle School.
• recognizing Employees of the Month for March. Williams Jackson III was named Employee of the Month at WES and Rosie Tuck is Employee of the Month for DMS.
Sponsors of the student and employee of the month program are Batter Up and Robertson Bank.
• approving inventory dispositions. Kallhoff said the list included about 13 technology items beyond repair.
• approving overnight and out-of-state trips for sports teams as well as the Demopolis High School Beta and DECA clubs.
• approving to advertise a position for lead nurse.
• Kallhoff told the board that the process of renewing the system’s five-year plan is underway and that there would be a series of public meetings scheduled to allow the community to offer input. The superintendent said he would also be meeting with student groups for feedback.

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