Closure looms for 2 Indiana virtual schools connected to inflated enrollment numbers controversy

DALEVILLE, Ind. — The Indiana Virtual Schools will not shut down tomorrow, but the time is coming. It's no longer a matter of "if" but "when."

Daleville Community Schools (DCS) is the authorizer of two online schools: Indiana Virtual Schools and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy. A previously reached agreement already made it official that IVS would close by September 30, 2019. IVPA has a closure date of September 30 at the earliest and June 30, 2020 at the latest.

These two online schools are under investigation by state auditors for allegedly inflating enrollment numbers and owing the state millions of dollars. The state examiner says both schools “substantially misreported” after reviewing the audit report. As of July 10, Indiana Virtual School was cut off from state funding, which was new information for some parents.

During Thursday's special session, the DCS Board of Trustees met with parents and educators to vote to issue notices of revocation of the charters of both schools. The board cited a failure by the virtual schools to cooperate in proper closure procedures. They unanimously agreed to move forward with revocation of the charters.

Now, the virtual schools' board has 15 days to appeal to get a longer timeline to close IVPA, which they requested. DCS will not make a decision to close the school for at least the next 30 days.

Carrie Bennett, the Exceptional Learners School counselor, pleaded with the board to give her students at IVPA more time. She said she has six seniors who graduate in December, and all she said she wants is for them to graduate from their school.

"They don't have the ability to transition well," Bennett said. "It takes time. It took them time to adjust to us, I don't know how that transitions going to go. We've got to go at their pace."

People on all sides are sympathetic to the students. DCS Communication Consultant Donna Petraits said these issues date back to 2015 when they received their charter.

"Bottom line is, it's the kids," Petraits said. "The kids that suffer, the kids don't get the information that they need, but given the issues that they've had all the way back to when they were first authorized, they've let kids fall through the cracks anyway."

During Thursday's meeting, Paul Garrison, DCS superintendent, told attendees the history of problems DCS has had with the two schools. He spoke about failure to communicate with students, parents and teachers about the schools' closure, failure to give DCS access to records and data and other issues that led DCS to issue a default notice to the schools.

In a news release provided by the school, Garrison writes, “We fully expect and demand that IVS and IVPA will fulfill all their legal, contractual, professional, and moral obligations until date of closure, whatever the vote may be tonight—especially as related to the students. The utter lack of communication with students and parents, miscommunication, and failure to adequately provide student services that we have seen over the course of the past week is simply unacceptable.
While we expect IVS and IVPA to fulfill all their obligations, student and educational services MUST take top priority and must be done with the highest level of care and professionalism. IVS and IVPA let their students down. There are many things that led us to this place, but that has been the most disappointing failure of them all.”

The virtual schools' superintendent, Percy Clark, was not at Thursday's meeting. Instead, a lawyer representing him and the schools addressed the board of trustees. She said the virtual schools' staff is down to "six or seven" people working in the office to get students' documentation prepared. At this time, it is unclear when students will receive their transcripts.

Petraits said the state's public schools are aware of the issues surrounding the virtual schools. She said the public schools are enrolling the students in the virtual schools, though their transcripts are pending. DCS said they are fully cooperating with the state board of education as an ongoing investigation into the matters concerning the virtual schools continues.

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