Archive for Thursday, January 11, 2007

Board signs dotted line for virtual school

January 11, 2007

High school students in Kansas will have one more option for virtual schools come next fall.

A unanimous vote by the Baldwin Board of Education approved the contract with Insight Schools Monday night. The board voted 6-0 to accept the contract. Board Member Lonnie Broers wasn't present at the meeting.

"I couldn't find anything significantly wrong or anything that was missing in my mind," Board Member Scott Lauridsen said. "It gives us the control that we want to make it a success and that's all we can do."

Bob Bezek, board attorney, presented the proposed contract to the school board. Bezek had been working with Insight Schools to finalize the contract that binds the two together.

"This document establishes the framework of a relationship, but it doesn't hold you to every decision that is made," Bezek said. "I can see things happening in the future that could change this. One of those is the Legislature. They could look at this and change the laws and there's nothing we can do about that."

Insight Schools is a statewide virtual high school that is looking for a home in Kansas. For more than a year, it has been working with the Baldwin district to create its Kansas base here in Baldwin City.

It offers a tuition-free virtual school with a wide array of classes that are offered. More information can be found on its Web site at www.insightschools.net.

At this time it is unknown how much money the school district will bring in from the Insight Schools contract. That amount will depend on the number of students that enroll in the virtual school.

During the November meeting, Lauridsen explained the financial numbers and what benefits the district would be receiving. He said that if the virtual school enrolled 1,000 students during its first year it would generate a surplus of $7.5 million. However, if the school brought in 500 students, the surplus would only be $1 million.

"The whole thing is assumptions, so a lot of the conversation was around assumptions of students and costs," Lauridsen said in November

Supt. Paul Dorathy said several people worked long hours on fixing the contract so that both parties were satisfied.

"There has been a great deal of time spent on this by Brian Rose (Insight Schools vice president of school development), Bob Bezek and myself," Dorathy said. "It's here with what would be a final draft."

The negotiations between the school board and Insight Schools began in November.

"They were very professional and there was good communication back and forth, God bless e-mail," Bezek said.

One struggle during the negotiations was teaching Insight Schools about Kansas laws and the education budget formula.

"They are learning," Bezek said of Insight Schools. "I am learning about what virtual schools are and how they operate and they are learning about Kansas law and how we operate."

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