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State launches online high school


Starting in January, New Hampshire will have an online charter school for high school students.


The Virtual Learning Academy Charter School, approved by the state in May, was initiated by the Exeter Region Cooperative School District. It will be funded through the Education Trust Fund.


Tuition will be free for New Hampshire high school students who are accepted into the program. Full-time tuition is estimated at $3,600 per student.


Students can start applying on Oct. 1 for part-time study in January. In September, students can take all of their classes through the virtual academy.


The school will offer college preparatory classes, Advanced Placement courses and special interest classes in biology, computer science, calculus, economics, English and Spanish.


Some educators aren’t completely sold on the idea.


“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Deb Wilmarth, a site coordinator for virtual learning at Salem High School. “It could be an option for a kid who has real social issues, but then that child misses out on the high school social experience that, in itself, is so valuable.”


Salem High now offers 50 seats in virtual classes, with 20 students taking Advanced Placement courses and other subjects through Virtual High School, based in Maynard, Mass.


“Sometimes a course doesn’t fit into a student’s schedule,” Wilmarth said. “Or the student might have health issues and wants to keep up with his or her studies.”


She said students usually take the online courses at the high school. “Some of our seniors who have a proven track record of good grades and attendance take their courses at home during first or last block,” she said.


Students admitted in the academy will be assigned a state certified teacher/adviser who maintains contact with the student and parent.


The academy will use three measures to assess academic achievement for its full-time students: the New England Common Assessment, testing and student projects assigned by the teachers, and students’ digital portfolios.


Jason Parent, assistant principal and director of alternative education at Londonderry High School, sees the online academy as another option for students to obtain credits needed for graduation.


“I’m all for it,” he said. “It’s fantastic as a supplemental option.” But, Parent said, he would not advocate an exclusive online course of study.


“Students still need socialization and extracurricular activities offered at the school,” he said.


Information from: The Eagle-Tribune,

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