The school committee in Greenfield, Massachusetts voted Thursday night to close the Massachusetts Virtual Academy, the first online public school in the state. Under a law passed in January, the Greenfield-based school would have had to re-apply by March 25th to stay open after this school year.
The virtual school, opened in 2010, enrolled four hundred and fifty students from across the state, but will close on June 30th. The school committee decided against applying for a new school certificate as required by the new law. That law gives the state department of Elementary and Secondary Education oversight of all online schools. Commissioner Mitchell Chester has said state oversight is necessary because the Greenfield school enrolls students from all across the commonwealth – not just locally. In a statement, department spokesman JC Considine says the department is disappointed that Greenfield won’t pursue an application and says was there were no -quote- “insurmountable obstacles” for Greenfield to apply for a new certificate.
But superintendent Susan Hollins says that district officials were concerned about losing local control of the school under the new law and had little time to put together an application before the deadline later this month. In a statement she said the school has been well-managed locally, but says the department of education consistently created and revised rules that made the school’s operation -quote- “difficult from the start.” Teachers, courses, and materials for the virtual school students are provided by K12, a for-profit company that has run into controversy in public school districts around the country. But that controversy was reportedly not brought up during the vote to close the school.