Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Virtual high school will open in August

CPS plans to offer students online courses

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A virtual high school will open as planned in August for about 250 of the Cincinnati Public school district's high school-aged students.

        Virtual learning offers courses online anytime students have Internet access. CPS's virtual school will also offer teacher instruction when needed.

        The board of education Monday gave the school its backing in a 4-3 vote.

        Some members questioned why the virtual school — to be housed in a leased building in Queensgate for nearly $36,000 a year — could not be placed in one of the current high school buildings.

        Board vice-president Lynn Marmer said she found it important to focus on the merits of offering virtual high school: attracting students who are non-traditional learners or who have dropped out.

        “My job is to look at the concept and endorse it and not micromanage the details,” she said. “I think this is a great idea. It serves a great need in our district.”

        Superintendent Steven Adamowski said other school sites were considered but they either lacked adequate space or were not centrally located.

        The virtual school is one step in the district's plan to restructure its neighborhood high schools.

        CPS charter schools manager John Rothwell, who released details on the virtual school last week, said the online courses could aid Cincinnati Public Schools in regaining some of the 2,000 students a year who drop out.

        “We find that for some students, this works great,” he said. “We can serve students (at the virtual school) for about the same cost as every other student in the district.”

        Last week, some board members criticized the administration for not detailing full costs to start the project.

        Mr. Rothwell on Friday provided a detailed analysis that showed the total operating costs for a virtual school serving 250 students would run about $1.66 million the first year.

        That cost estimate would be comparable to funding for one of the district's charter schools if it housed 250 students, Mr. Rothwell said. Such a charter school would cost the district about $1.71 million to run annually, according to projected per pupil costs.

        Board members Harriet Russell, Florence Newell and Catherine Ingram opposed the lease for the virtual school, saying they would've liked more details and more discussion.


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