A Massachusetts education board will decide the fate on Tuesday of the state’s first and only online school, based in Greenfield.
In January, Governor Deval Patrick signed a law that requires the state to play a larger regulatory role over locally-based online schools that enroll students from across the state. It also requires the state’s only online school, the Greenfield Virtual Academy, to re-apply for a state certificate. After some debate, Greenfield officials made a last minute decision to go forward with an application this spring. State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester called the application “not particularly strong,” but recommended the board pass it, with several conditions.
“I need a greater assurance than I received in the application that the school is ready to serve students with special needs, including students with disabilities, and English language learners. I need a greater specificity about their goals and how we’ll be able to measure their performance as they go forward.”
Chester says he would grant the school a 3-year certificate, rather than the requested 5 years, and fund the school about $1,000 less per pupil than asked for, based on the cost of online schools in other states. Greenfield Superintendent Susan Hollins says the school had a short amount of time to put together its application, but has been making preparations should the Board of Education accept its proposal. Hollins could not be reached for comment on Chester’s recommendation. Chester says he expects applications for at least two more online-only schools throughout the next year. If the board accepts Greenfield’s application, the school would formally make the transition to state oversight on July 1st.