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Valley View admins not so sure about proposed online school

It is 21st Century home schooling: an online curriculum for kindergartners through high schoolers who require an alternative to the traditional classroom environment.

"It" is an online charter school, and following a presentation to the Valley View School District Board of Education March 27, the nonprofit Virtual Learning Solutions remains hopeful of establishing the first one to serve Bolingbrook and the west suburbs.

The Illinois Virtual Charter School @ Fox River Valley would cater to students from 18 school districts, including Valley View and neighboring Naperville Community Unit School District 203 and Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202.

For the last month, Virtual Learning Solutions board members have visited area school districts, petitioning administrators and explaining their online charter parameters.

With a goal of opening this fall, Illinois Virtual Charter School @ Fox River Valley would provide "Individualized education plans" for students that dropped out, transferred, attended multiple schools or individuals that struggle learning in a traditional classroom environment, according to the charter school's proposal to Valley View administrators.

The online charter school school will also serve students with learning disabilities or health issues, athletes, actors and performers or children requiring a flexible class schedule, the proposal said.

John Rico, vice president of Virtual Learning Solutions, said Illinois Virtual Charter School @ Fox River Valley hopes to initially draw less that half of 1 percent of the student population from each district.

State funding for each student enrolling in the charter would be diverted from the students' school district to the online school, thus eliminating any tuition for students in the online school.

Illinois Virtual Charter School @ Fox River Valley is looking to Valley View and the 17 other area school districts to sign off on the online school's charter before it can open, but Valley View officials don't appear to be willing partners.

Valley View School Board President Steve Quigley said administrators still have unanswered questions as well as concerns with online-only schooling.

"(Representatives from the school) were not prepared for the questions asked (March 27)," Quigley said. "They could not provide any evidence as to why test scores and graduation rates are consistently lower in online charter schools."

Quigley was also concerned by the presenters' "lack of preparation" and their "inability" to fully address and explain issues such as class selection process, oversight, how the online program and classes will be managed, and student-to-teacher ratio.

According to state law, each district has 30 days to vote on the charter proposal after the initial meeting. If the 18 districts unanimously approve the charter, Virtual Learning Solutions will proceed with vendor contract negotiations.

But, if one or more districts vote against the charter, Virtual Learning Solutions plans to take the matter to the state commission, Jackson said. If the commission rules in favor of the online charter, the school districts have grounds to appeal the decision in court.

The Valley View School Board is expected to vote on the proposed online school charter at its April 17 meeting.

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