Mobile County to launch virtual school


MOBILE CO, Ala. (WALA) – Students in Mobile County have another option when it comes to going to school. They can take classes right from home. The Mobile County Public School System is launching a virtual school beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.

The Envision Virtual School will be available to students in grades six through 12. Enrollment will initially be capped at 250 students. The plan is to eventually expand to 500 students.

The Mobile County Public School System provided some answers to questions about Envision Virtual School:

Q: How does my child enroll?
A: Online registration will begin on in July.

Q: Who can enroll?
A: Students must meet the following requirements:

  • They must live in the Mobile County Public School district.
  • They must have a computer.
  • They must have Internet access.
  • They must have an adult who commits to working with them from home.

Q: Why is Mobile County starting a virtual school?
A: “To meet the needs of all students,” said Karen Mohr, acting Chief Academic Officer for the district. “We want to offer an additional pathway for students who would excel in a setting outside the traditional classroom. This is another way to increase our graduation rate.”

Q: How will Envision Virtual School work?
A: Students will complete lessons, conduct virtual experiments, solve words problems, and watch online videos to complete their coursework and earn academic credit. They will be required to go to MCPSS’s central office to take all state and district required standardized tests, including end-of-quarter tests.

Students will be monitored to make sure they are completing the required “seat time.” But a benefit of the online school is that advanced students will be able to work at an accelerated pace, while students who need more intervention can work at a slower pace. The academic year will go from August until July, but students can complete their work early.

Students will have the flexibility to decide what time of day to do their work, and which days to work. They will also have options to take breaks as long as they are staying on pace.

Online tutorials will be available if students need extra help with a particular subject. A principal will run the school and there will be a couple of teachers available for students to call and ask questions or “Skype” with to work through lessons as needed.

This is the first school of this type. (Baldwin County piloted Alabama’s first virtual high school last year, but does not offer grades six through eight.)

Q: What courses will be offered?
A: Core courses will be offered, as well as advanced courses. There will be foreign languages and some electives. There will even be an online physical education class.

Q: What type of student should enroll?
A: “It should be a student who is very focused and driven, that excels while working independently and that is responsible. A driven student who wants to go to college early would be a good candidate,” Mohr said.

Q: Can special-education students enroll?
A: Yes, if they get an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) that allows them to do so. Officials believe the virtual school could be a good fit for some students with autism or Asperger syndrome or sensory impairments.

Q: What about extra-curricular activities?
A: There are no extra-curricular activities, including sports, band, clubs, etc. Students will not be able to attend prom or a school’s homecoming activities, as the entire experience is virtual.

Q: Is there a charge for students to attend?
A: No.

Q: What diploma will students earn?
A: Students will be able to earn Alabama high school diplomas that indicate they graduated from Envision Virtual School. The diplomas will note that the school is part of the Mobile County Public School System. A graduation ceremony will be held in the spring.

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