School Board Discusses Virtual School CapabilitySep 20th, 2013 | By Admin | Category: Front Page
By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc. ight now we don’t have any (virtual school capability),” School Superintendent Doug Brown told the school board. “But this year, especially by the second semester, if we have the resources, we can move forward.” Brown was referring to two items on the meeting agenda related to the Florida Virtual School: A “memorandum of understanding” to ensure innovative learning solutions for students in the Virtual Learning Lab (VLL) and a second “memorandum of understanding” to ensure innovative learning solutions to all students within a Blended Learning Community (BLC). A memorandum of understanding, or MOU, is a document of formal agreement between two or more parties, existing at a point along the continuum between a “gentlemen’s agreement” and a legally binding contract. An MOU expresses a “convergence of wills” or something all the parties want or would like to see happen. MOUs can also establish official partnerships. MOUs are typically not legally binding in the way that a legal contract would be, unless certain legal elements are included in the document, but they are stronger and more formal than a “gentlemen’s agreement,” often clearly spelling out a mutual intent of all the parties. In this case, the Madison County School District hopes to have by spring of 2014 the resources for its first steps toward providing some virtual school capability through the Florida Virtual School for some of its students, in the VLL where all instruction for a course is online, and in a BLC, where some instruction is received online and some is offline. The Florida Virtual School would like to be the one to provide that first bit of capability for the Madison School District, should circumstances like the availability of resources allow the district to move in that direction. The virtual school in both its VLL and BLC incarnations would be targeted toward the high school, where it could offer course material to the students that wouldn’t ordinarily be available offline, something that would be especially helpful in cases of dual enrollment or filling gaps in the school curriculum when the school doesn’t have the instructional resources. One such example would be in the area of foreign languages. With virtual offerings in that area, students would have a wider selection of languages. Andy Barnes, financial director for the district, said that about $50,000 had been set aside as a line-item to fund the first steps toward virtual instruction; neither Barnes nor Brown said they foresaw a great number of students enrolling at first, but if that happened, the district would either have to cap enrollment or come back before the school board to request more money to handle the extra students. Once the district begins moving toward virtual school capability, “we will be trying to increase offerings to the students as we move forward,” said Brown. The board voted unanimously to approve both of the MOUs. The board also considered an item related to the new James Madison Preparatory High School regarding its status in the Florida Retirement System (FRS). Currently, even though the charter school is a public school, it is considered a private employer, not a public one, meaning that its employees cannot participate in the FRS. In order to change the school’s status to that of public employer, the contract with JMPHS would have to be revisited and changed. School Board Attorney Tommy Reeves agreed to take the matter under advisement.