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D-200 approves online class initiative despite partner district dropout

WHEATON – Community Unit School District 200 is a step closer to expanding its digital presence in the fall, despite losing at least one of its partners in the effort.

The District 200 Board of Education voted 6 to 1 at its meeting Wednesday to embark on the second phase of an online classroom initiative headed by itself and four other districts, after finding out Kaneland Community Unit School District 302 had left the program.

Additionally, Batavia Public School District 101 remains undecided, according to District 200 Superintendent Brian Harris and Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Faith Dahlquist. Being the smallest, Kaneland and Batavia found the about $88,000 buy-in to be a challenge, Dahlquist said.

"In talking with people from those districts, the pushback was about the number in the budget, not the concept behind it," she said.

Harris said he is confident the other two schools, Naperville Community Unit School District 203 and Indian Prairie School District 204, will be involved, despite neither having yet taken a formal vote.

Because the model relies on proportional cost sharing, District 200 can expect to pay about $117,000 in additional costs throughout the next year if Batavia opts out, Dahlquist said.

That would also mean more seats for District 200 students, from 104 to 130 over two semesters. The number of teachers supplied by the district and the buy-in costs would remain the same.

Board member Jim Mathieson voted against the initative after expressing concern that the program, which offers a mix of online and blended classrooms in subjects such as English credit recovery, Mandarin and Algebra, wasn't big enough.

"I think we need to be technologically ahead, (but) I'm concerned this is one piece of a big pie, and are we really hitting the right piece?" he said. "We're under this tight time frame, unfortunately, but I think we have a technology issue that is much bigger than this ... class offering, and I'd rather see this be part of a bigger picture program."

Dahlquist said the district recently formed a Future of Integrated Technology Committee to address that concern and explore how to best incorporate new technologies and techniques in the classroom.

"What we're talking about here for the next school year is just online. We're dipping our toe in the water, but we need to dip the toe in the water to get moving in that direction," Harris said. "It's a journey – it's not necessarily a destination. I don't know if we'll ever arrive in this arena, but you've got to start to move forward in this progress."

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