Coupeville eyes ‘virtual academy’ to boost career classes for students
By NATHAN WHALEN
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
February 1, 2012 · 10:07 AM
In an effort to give students more choices for career preparation classes, the Coupeville School District is considering a partnership with an Oregon “virtual academy” that offers online education.
The Coupeville School Board heard a presentation at its January meeting from Brian Rose, co-founder of the Ignite Education Group, which is based in Portland. The company is starting a career-based virtual academy with an emphasis on health sciences, business, technology, engineering and digital media. The company is looking to start with one school in Oregon and one school in Washington. Rose said the school has received provisional accreditation from the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Superintendent Patty Page said after the meeting it’s difficult for a district the size of Coupeville to offer career preparation options to its students. The academy may fit the district’s needs.
“This is a niche that no other online schools have,” Page said of Ignite’s program. The Coupeville School District’s current online options include some credit recovery classes for students who have fallen behind in their courses and classes offered through Carnegie Math.
Rose proposed a partnership with the school district where the students could take classes through his virtual academy, but still remain students of the Coupeville School District.
The virtual academy would be funded with basic education dollars provided by the state.
School board and audience members had some questions for Rose and the academy he is trying to start.
Board member Jeff Tasoff asked about logistics surrounding the tutoring services.
Rose said Ignite Education Group contracts with Tutor.com for tutors. Those tutors are based in the United States and they are often graduate students, Rose said.
Board member Carol Bishop questioned what the board’s role would be in the program. Rose replied the school board would govern the program and contract services with Ignite.
The school district would share in a percentage of enrollment dollars and would negotiate the number of students available to enroll in classes offered by the virtual academy. Ignite Education Group hopes to have between 200 and 300 students enrolled when classes start next fall. Rose envisions live sessions with teachers will be between 20 and 30 students.
Teacher Tacy Bigelow, who also represents the teachers’ union, questioned whether the teachers will be certified in Washington and whether the teachers will be union members.
Rose said the academy isn’t required to have teachers under contract by the union; however, many of its teachers are employed at other school districts and work for Ignite on a part-time basis.
Page said after the meeting staff will continue to gather information and learn about the positives and negatives of such a program. She said that process could take between two and three months to complete, with the ultimate decision resting with the school board.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Nathan Whalen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-675-6611 ext. 5058.