Clay Community Schools may start virtual academy

Jeff Fritz, superintendent, Clay Community Schools

Clay Community Schools will ask its School Board to approve a new “virtual academy” when it meets Tuesday.

“We’re doing it to provide an elementary and secondary option for parents and students,” said Jeff Fritz, Clay Schools superintendent.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, some parents statewide are saying they won’t send their children back to school; instead, they will home school or use virtual education.

CCSC is working with a company called Edmentum to provide the virtual program for the 2020-21 school year, subject to board approval, Fritz said.

“We don’t know what kind of turnout we will get,” he said. “We hope it’s not a whole lot. We hope we’ll be able to open [school] in the traditional sense. We’re very close to that. That’s our goal. But we will have that [virtual program] option available.”

The School Board also will act on the district’s “re-entry” plan for 2020-21, which involves a return to brick-and-mortar schools.

“You don’t know what the fall is going to bring,” Fritz said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make our schools as safe as possible ... we feel some parents may be uncomfortable at the very beginning and this [virtual academy] gives us an option.”

For several years the district has provided secondary students with Chromebooks, and it just purchased Chromebooks this summer for elementary students, he said. “So all of our students K-12 will have a Chromebook.”

Students who participate in the virtual academy will still be enrolled at their home school, Fritz said. “Our principals will be checking in with those students and parents.”

Those students and families also will be able to contact educators online through the Edmentum program.

A full-year program for the virtual option would cost the district $3,000 per elementary student and $2,500 per secondary student; costs can also be broken down per month or semester. “It won’t cost parents anything. We’re absorbing that cost,” he said.

The district spoke with other corporations using Edmentum, and those districts “saw pretty good success” with the company, Fritz said.

The virtual academy is part of the district’s overall school re-entry plan.

In developing its re-entry plan, the district has worked closely with the Clay County health department and legal counsel. The plan considers various risk levels and how the district would respond. It considers such aspects as vulnerable populations, transportation, student meals, large gatherings, how the district would respond if individuals tested positive for COVID.

“It’s the hardest, most time-consuming thing I’ve ever worked on in my career,” Fritz said. “Even though we have a plan, it’s going to be a living, breathing document. It’s very fluid ... it’s not set in stone. We know there will be changes that are needed. But we feel very good about it.”

The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the central administrative offices, 1013 S. Forest Ave., Brazil.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

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