Leaders of Louisiana’s first online charter school for students from kindergarten through 12th grade are asking the state for a higher enrollment cap because of unexpected demand, officials said Tuesday.
“The response has been very good, very positive,” said Wade Henderson, president of a seven-member board that oversees the school, Louisiana Connections Academy, 8281 Goodwood Blvd.
Henderson and others planned on up to 500 students for the first year, which begins Aug. 15. Officials are asking the state’s top school board to raise the enrollment cap to 1,000.
Henderson said the enrollment cap can be exceeded by 20 percent, which means the academy can enroll 600 in its first year.
Students from the Baton Rouge area account for about 100 of that 600, he said.
Another 100 or so area students are among the 2,000 or so who have started the application process, Henderson said.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is expected to act on the request at its next meeting in August. BESE approved Louisiana Connections Academy in December.
Similar schools operate in 22 states. The curriculum is supposed to mirror courses offered in traditional public schools. Students will rely on home-based computers, telephones, web conferencing, email and software — virtual schooling — as they go through the school year.
Students are supposed to have a “learning coach” with them daily, such as a parent, grandparent or guardian, to offer assistance, and serve as a contact for teachers.
Charter schools are public schools that are develop innovative teaching methods. Backers say the school will appeal to a wide range of disaffected students who might otherwise drop out.
Caroline Wood, who has been named principal, said online classes appeals to families whose children have slipped through the cracks, in part because they failed to get enough individual attention.
“Our whole goal is to be hyperfocused on a daily basis on how students are doing academically and adjusting that curriculum to fit the needs of the child,” Wood said.
Wood said she has been an educator for 21 years, including three years as a coordinator for college and career readiness at the state Department of Education.
Organizers began holding information sessions in March.
Henderson said he was struck by the heavy turnout for those gatherings, especially since the school did limited advertising beforehand.
“They were already very knowledgeable about what we were bringing to the state,” he said of parents.