2 large Indiana virtual schools at risk of losing charters

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Two large virtual charter schools in Indiana, Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy, could be forced to close after a vote from Daleville’s school board Monday night.

The schools were served notice by their authorizers, Daleville Community Schools, of a unanimous decision to revoke their charters.

Superintendent Paul Garrison said there was a pattern of noncompliance by both schools and they were compelled to act swiftly and decisively.

“We are disappointed that we find ourselves at this place, but our primary concern is and always has been, doing what’s in the best interest of students,” Garrison said.

Garrison said the notice of revocation of the charters begins a closure protocol that will provide a public meeting giving the schools an opportunity to respond to the board’s recommendation to revoke the charters.

The school board then has a week to deliberate and vote on its conclusion.

The State Board of Education said the closure of the virtual schools would not be immediate as their Charter agreement requires a one year period before the charter can be revoked. The one-year clock starts from the date of the revocation notice.

“There are success stories here, but there are far too many students not being served to justify maintaining the operation of these particular charters under our authorization,” said Garrison.

Rebecca Zarrinnegar’s two children are finding success taking high school courses online at Indiana Virtual School. Her daughter is a senior and just got accepted to IUPUI. Her son is a sophomore at Indiana Virtual School.

“I had no idea they were in trouble,” she said. “I am really worried. I don’t know what we would do.”

This decision could impact more than 7,000 students enrolled at Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy this school year.

Daleville’s superintendent claims hundreds of students, sometimes more than a thousand, failed to submit assignments for a full semester.

“That is terrible,” said Zarrinnegar. “I think it is up to the parents to make sure the kids are doing the work.”

Some state lawmakers think there should be more regulations on virtual charter schools. There’s actually a bill, HB 1172, heading to the senate floor on it.

“We want to make sure they are looking at the best interest of every student,” said State Representative Bob Behning.

State Representative Behning is the author. He thinks only groups with statewide jurisdiction rather than a school district should authorize virtual charter schools.

“It’s more difficult to hold them accountable than a state wide authorizer,” said Behning.

Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy receive state funding. Indiana Virtual School received a grade of “F” three years in a row from the state.

The State Board of Education said there is no grace period in which a charter school is allowed to operate without an authorizer. A school must have an authorizer at all times. That means if they lose their charter, these students will need to go to a different school in the fall.

Dr. Percy Clark Jr., superintendent of the virtual charter schools, sent us the following statement.

Virtual education in Indiana is an important choice. Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy exist because thousands of Hoosier parents and students have chosen to pursue  individualized learning outside of the traditional school setting. We believe it is vital to protect and respect that choice.

To that effect, Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy believe there is an opportunity to improve and move forward to ensure the future of virtual education.

The data presented to the public by the authorizer was inaccurate and incomplete. We look forward to setting the record straight and, more importantly, continuing to provide educational opportunities for thousands of Hoosier students.

Our schools have many options for the future, and consequently so do the students we serve as they realize the long-lasting value of achieving their diplomas.

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