More than 600 students in Lafayette Parish — enough to fill a school — don’t attend class in a traditional classroom and instead are being home-schooled.
The Lafayette Parish School System hopes to attract those students and others who may want a nontraditional learning option with the expansion of its existing “virtual learning” program.
Starting in August, the school system will launch the eCampus Academy, a virtual school for kindergarten through 12th grade that allows students to take classes online in real time with a teacher. The school system tested the full-time virtual class option with middle and high school students in the 2014-15 school year and enrolled 70 students, all of whom passed their end-of-course tests, said Jarrett Coutee, the school system’s virtual learning administrator.
The school system has offered online courses through its eCampus program to high school and middle school students who either wanted to take courses that were not offered at their school or who needed to recover credits due to failing a course. That “blended learning” option — where students attend their zoned school and also take online courses through eCampus — still will be offered.
The eCampus Academy is an additional service that enables students to attend school full time online with support from the eCampus staff. The support includes access to a counselor and to resources at the eCampus site in the former LeRosen Elementary School on Pinhook Road.
Two statewide charter schools offer Louisiana students virtual learning options for grades K-12. Neighboring parishes also offer the option to students.
The option requires a parent or adult to make a commitment to provide oversight of the child’s education at home — especially with elementary school-aged students, Coutee said.
“It does require parental involvement,” Coutee said. “This is dynamic and rigorous coursework.”
Students in the eCampus Academy still will be able to participate in activities at their zoned school. The eCampus Academy also will organize monthly events at LeRosen, and students will have daily access to the site to receive additional help or meet with a counselor. There’s a learning lounge on the site, as well as a computer lab where students can work and where they’ll report to take tests.
For lower grades, such as kindergarten, parents will have access to resources and activities to download and print as part of their child’s lessons.
School system officials said they hope the rigorous lessons taught live by certified teachers online will help attract students who are being home-schooled.
“That’s a fairly significant population of individuals who opted out of the school system for whatever reason,” Superintendent Donald Aguillard said. “We want them to give us another shot, given everything we offer in terms of programs and the array of programs we have available.”
Until mid-May, Aguillard was superintendent of schools in St. Mary Parish, which launched a virtual school in the 2012-13 school year. Lessons learned from those experiences played a part in plans for the rollout of Lafayette’s eCampus Academy.
“What we discovered is kids need some guidance, and having teachers available to help them keeps them focused and on track. Otherwise, it’s independent learning,” Aguillard said.
But, he noted, “It’s not for all students.”
Neighboring St. Martin, Vermilion and Iberia parishes school systems also offer online learning options to students.
Iberia Parish launched the Iberia Virtual Academy in the 2013-14 school year, and St. Martin’s program began in the 2012-13 school year for students in grades seven through 12. It was expanded the following school year to students in first through sixth grades. St. Martin Parish also offers the virtual learning option for summer school.
Coutee said interested parents can begin registering online for the eCampus Academy next week by visiting the academy’s website at www.lpss online.com/ecampus.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.