The East Baton Rouge Parish school system wants to make another, different, attempt at attracting children to a program that offers a free, public education online.
Superintendent Warren Drake says he’s likely to shut down the school system’s 2-year-old EBR Virtual Academy in favor of something new, but still to be determined. The school has attracted just 24 students since August 2016.
Drake said he’s talking with private online education companies about taking over the school, perhaps as early as January or as late as the start of another school year next August.
“We need a viable online presence,” Drake said.
Drake said Austin, Texas-based Proximity Learning is one of the vendors he’s speaking with, but he said he’s not yet made a decision about which way he’d like to go.
Last December, the school system spent $112,000 to hire Proximity to teach live-streamed Latin classes at Glasgow Middle and McKinley High schools, and several math courses at Glen Oaks and Northeast high schools. It continued with Proximity this school year with a smaller budget of $84,000.
The EBR Virtual Academy was envisioned as a selective, higher-end virtual high school catering to students living in East Baton Rouge Parish seeking a fast track to graduation, particularly home-school students.
To win admission, students had to score at grade level or better on state standardized tests or above the national average on a national standardized test.
Scottsdale, Arizona-based Edgenuity supplied the online courses, and students need to have access to a home computer and the internet to participate. It was not strictly online, though. Students came in person to to take unit tests and exams, or if they wanted tutoring.
Its physical home was at Glen Oaks High School, 6650 Cedar Grove Drive, but school staff had to relocate for a whole year after that high school flooded in August 2016. A month into the 2016-17 school year it managed to enroll just one student and has had trouble attracting students ever since.
Other Louisiana school districts have reported much greater success with their home-grown online schools.
Drake said he’s not sure of the fate of a related program operated out of the same location for high school-age students who have dropped out or who are on the verge of dropping out. It blends Edgenuity courses online with one-on-one interaction. The program was a variation on a program called “Moving Forward” that the school system launched in 2015 and was operated by Dallas-based Grade Results, but which failed to draw many students.