Virtual school extended to include grades 7-12

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
USD 457's Board of Education decided Monday to extend the virtual learning program to include grades 7-12 for the 2021-22 school year.

Virtual learning was extended to include grades 7-12 for the 2021-22 school year at USD 457's regular Board of Education meeting Monday.

Currently, virtual school is available only to students in grades 9-12.

An additional teacher for the virtual school and an additional classified position were included in the virtual school expansion as well as a change in one staff member's position to remove a .25 teacher salary and adding a .25 administrator salary for them to pick up additional duties.

At the March 25 meeting the Board discussed the possibility of either expanding virtual school to grades 7-12 or making virtual school available grades K-6 and 7-12.

Steve Karlin, USD 457 superintendent, said the reason for the recommendation to only extend virtual school to grades 7-12 is due to state funding, as the state isn't funding virtual school at the same level as face-to-face learning. It's more affordable to extend virtual school to grades 7-12 than for all grades.

"There are some kids that this is a good choice for and our teachers have done an amazing job, the problem is it really comes down to ... can we afford to do it and can we justify the expense?" he said.

It will cost an estimated $390,000 to extend virtual school to students in seventh and eighth grades, and it was estimated that it would cost an estimated $922,500 to extend virtual school to grades K-6 and then 7-12.

In addition to the cost the district would actually lose money because the district receives $5,000 per students enrolled in virtual compared to the $12,000 a student in on-site learning brings in.

The district would lose approximately $1.6 million to offer virtual school to all grade levels and approximately $411,222 in extending to seventh and eighth grades.

Board member Lara Bors said to a certain degree she can understand where the legislature and the Kansas Department of Education is coming from with their funding decision if the program was pre-planned and wasn't taught by a live teacher, however at USD 457 the program is taught with a live teacher.

Bors said the state needs to look at the funding and suggested contacting the local, State Board of Education member.

"I just think it needs to be looked at at the state level if you're doing something like what we would like to do here that we can get appropriate funding for it, that we're not just buying something off the internet and saying 'here you go, good luck,'" she said. "I would be really nice if we could maybe have that address, because I would like to do ... fifth and sixth (grades)."

In other business the Board heard a presentation on the 2021-22 calendar.

Tentative dates for Draft B, the staff recommended calendar, include a start date of Aug. 9, a half-day for grades K-4, 5, 7, 9-10 and new students, and a full day for Aug. 10; fall vacation from Nov. 24-26, however there would be no school on Nov. 22 and 23 due to teacher in-service days; winter vacation from Dec. 20 through January 5; spring break from March 14-18; and the last day of school on May 19.

Additionally the Board approved the addition of a Scholars Bowl team to Horace Good Middle School and Kenneth Henderson Middle School.