NJ Spotlight: Virtual Charter School a Screen Test for Online Learning
Despite questions over funding, enrollments pour in for K-10 virtual classrooms.
New Jersey’s first comprehensive charter school to hold all of its classes online is beginning to enroll students from across the state for next fall, even as questions persist to how exactly the new breed of schools will operate and be funded.
The New Jersey Virtual Academy Charter School (NJVACS), operating under contract with the for-profit online education company, K12 Inc., has begun advertising its New Jersey program through traditional press releases, email blasts and informational events.
After just a week of accepting names, it had enrolled more than 300 students, said school officials, who did not rule out that demand could outnumber seats and a lottery may be needed. The school seeks to enroll 850 for its first year, kindergarten through 10th grade.
Based out of Newark and led by a board with close ties to one of that city’s best known charter schools, NJVACS will provide instruction almost entirely online, with students working with teachers who are potentially hundreds of miles away.
Students will be from throughout the state, with a half-dozen “learning centers” yet to be located as hubs for extra services such as counseling.
Along with a second virtual charter set to open in the fall, it will mark New Jersey’s first big step into full-time online schooling, part of a wave that has become more commonplace in other states.
It will also mark New Jersey’s first real taste of the burgeoning online education industry, with K12 Inc. the largest such business in the country, with schools now in 30 states and Washington, D.C.
K12 has drawn its share of critics, claiming its academic results are, at best, mediocre and it is more intent on efficiency than educational quality. It was subject the of a scathing critique in The New York Times in December that, in turn, led to an investor lawsuit claiming it was not living up to its business objectives, let alone educational ones.
The company has been aggressive in trying to burnish its image, and one of its top executives this weekend maintained that K12 will bring valuable new opportunities to New Jersey for students who are not succeeding in traditional settings for any host of reasons.
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NJ Spotlight is an online news service providing insight and information on issues critical to New Jersey.