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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Interest in Pinellas Virtual School surges



Interesting virtual education news out of Pinellas: The school district says it's received so much interest in its online courses that it's closing the application period a week early.

The original deadline to apply was Aug. 30. Now, the cut-off for applications to Pinellas Virtual School is Aug. 23 at 5 p.m.

“In only four years we’ve reached the point where demand has surpassed capacity, similar to the situation with District Application Programs such as magnets and fundamentals,” said Pat Lusher, director of academic computing. “We want to maintain the quality of the program by not placing more students in a classroom than existing resources can support, so we’re closing the application process a week early.”

This announcement comes on the heels of mass layoffs at Florida Virtual School, where enrollment for August and September courses dropped 32 percent over last year.

The most likely culprit for FLVS's woes is new legislation that causes school districts to receive less state funding when a student signs up for FLVS or another outside provider. (FLVS also receives less money per student from the state.)

Officials in Pasco told The Gradebook that the legislation was a factor when allowing students to sign up for online courses this fall. Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando all have their own, in-house virtual schools.

Pinellas's program is taught by Pinellas teachers in grades 6-12; the district contracts with vendors for K-5. Last school year, it enrolled 270 full-time students and 167 part-time students. In the 2011-12 school year, there were actually slightly more students enrolled: 284 full-time and 180 part-time.

Pinellas expected to enroll 100 students for K-5 and 200 students for 6-12 this school year. These expectations have already been met, earlier than was anticipated, Lusher said. The next opportunity to apply will be April.

[Last modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 11:06pm]


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