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SCC considers virtual school possibilities

Like it or not, online classes are here to stay.

Joanne Sanders, technology coordinator for St. Croix Central, discussed virtual school options with the school board on Monday night.

Currently, 10 kids in the district open enroll to other districts to utilize virtual school options.

Adding a virtual school program could benefit the district in several ways, Sanders said. It could save money by reducing open enrollment students in the district, allowing sick or expelled kids to keep attending classes and accommodating students who don't learn well in the traditional setting.

Virtual school curriculum can either be purchased through specialized companies or written by district teachers. Students can attend virtual school full-time, part time or take supplemental classes.

Along with the cost of purchasing or writing curriculum, the district may have to provide laptops or netbooks, an Internet stipend and possibly hire a mentor or supervisor for the program.

Jeff Redmon, board member, questioned why school districts are implementing virtual school options on their own, rather than the school consortiums.

"Why doesn't CESA do this? It just doesn't make sense that we have 400 or whatever school districts competing for students," he commented.

Sanders said the Department of Public Instruction recommended company, Wisconsin Virtual School, has been absorbing some of the other providers, while weaker companies are failing.

"I think this is all new ground and we have to find our way," Sanders told the board after about 20 minutes of discussion.

No decisions were made, but several board members voiced support for moving forward with planning. A few students may sign up to test the programs.

In other news:

• The board approved Laura Fern's resignation from her position as the middle school cross country coach. Contracts were approved for John Tackmann as high school assistant track coach and Stephanie Evenson, certified nurse assistant.

• District resident Cari Kuchenmeister approached the board during the public comment portion to discuss the bus route near her house. She asked that the bus stop in the Emerald Acres development be moved nearer to the cul-de-sac area.

"It's quite a walk from the cul-de-sac to the bus stop," she said. "It's a concern to me and about four families it affects."

Bus route supervisor Steve Sanders said his concern is keeping the routes shorter than an hour. Going to the cul-de-sac could add about 3/10 of a mile.

Several board members commented they've heard concerns about bus routes from people in the community. Several have complained that kids are getting home later, but that could be due to the school day running 10 minutes longer.

The board decided to discuss the bus routes in the future.

• Absenteeism rates have fallen to an average of about 3 percent since the H1N1 outbreak last month, said District Administrator David Bradley. That rate is pretty normal for this time of year.

"We're hoping it stays that way," said Scott Woodington, middle school principal.

One student from the high school has recently been hospitalized due to H1N1, High School Principal Glenn Webb reported.

• Webb reported that the high school faculty and students have a lot of work to do to meet their goal of zero "F" grades for the semester. There were 55 students with F grades during the first quarter (15.4 percent), an increase from 36 students (10.4 percent) last year. There were 28 students with multiple F grades (7.8 percent), up from nine (2.6 percent) last year.

"It's tough. We definitely had a step backward from last year," Webb said. "It's something we're working on."

Webb said they are planning to utilize the resource room and the English Language Learners teacher to help get kids back on track.

• The board voted unanimously to approve the revised early admission to kindergarten policy. The policy was last reviewed in October 1996.

For a child to be admitted early, a parent/guardian must fill out an application form and have a personal interview about why his or her child should be admitted early. The child will be evaluated, followed by a conference to discuss the findings. The elementary principal, school psychologist and special education director will make the decision, which may be appealed to the school board.

• The board approved borrowing up to $300,000 for cash flow purposes. Jen Kirkham, district accountant, said the payroll is due before the state aid payment is deposited. Following the approval for short-term borrowing, the board discussed opening a line of credit with a bank. They decided to get more information from banks before making a decision.

• The board approved adding a strength and conditioning coaching position. Ryan Berg, kindergarten teacher and assistant varsity football coach, was approved to take the winter position. The position will cost about $5,000 total for the three sports seasons.

Having someone in that position can benefit the district in a few ways, Bradley said. Kids using the weightroom will be supervised and instructed in proper techniques.

All students are welcome to use the weightroom after school from about 3:45 to 5:15 p.m.

• The next St. Croix Central School District Board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 21, at the Middle School Media Center, 1295 Vine St., Hammond.