LAFAYETTE — The St. Mary Parish school system plans to open a new virtual school in August as a way to draw home schoolers back into the school system.
The virtual school would enroll students in grades 6-12 and is open to any student in the parish. However, the school system is targeting students who currently receive educational services through home schooling or online charter schools, said Monica Mancuso, supervisor of middle and high schools for St. Mary Parish.
The school system has budgeted about $25,000 for the needed software to launch the virtual program, she said.
Students who enroll in the virtual education program will be assigned to a base school — whichever school they’re zoned to attend — and will receive online services and assistance from certified St. Mary Parish teachers, Mancuso said.
Students will report to their home school for state accountability testing, but otherwise, all their schoolwork will be done at home, she said.
The district has received a few calls from interested home school parents, Mancuso said.
“We find that they would appreciate having the access to the resources and teachers that this learning program will provide,” Mancuso said. “Sometimes parents get to a level where they need support to get their child through a home study program. This is to fill that void.”
“The demand for home schooling in St. Mary Parish has fluctuated between 47 and 67 over the last 3 years,” Mancuso wrote in an email response to questions about the plan.
The program would also enable students enrolled in online charter schools the option of receiving services from their own school district, she said. The number of St. Mary students enrolled in such schools was not readily available Monday afternoon.
Mancuso said the district is still planning the program with the expertise of its teachers who have taught or created courses for the Louisiana Virtual School. The school is a partnership between the state Department of Education and the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts that provides students’ online learning courses.
In December, the St. Martin Parish School Board approved a virtual school for students in grades 7-12. However, the St. Martin Parish program differs in that students will have the flexibility of doing their work at home or going to the virtual school program site adjacent to Breaux Bridge Junior High, where teachers will be available to provide assistance.
Student scheduling for the fall is still being worked out, and the district will also operate a virtual summer school beginning in June, said Richard Lavergne, St. Martin Parish Schools superintendent. The district didn’t offer summer school in the past because of low enrollment, Lavergne has said.