New Lafayette school program would target new students

— The Lafayette Parish School System is considering the launch of a virtual school option for students in the fall to recapture students who have left the system for home schooling or virtual charter schools.

The district currently offers students online courses through its “eCampus” program, which is a program where students attend their zoned school but can take online courses to either recover course credit or take a needed course not available at their own school, explained Jarrett Coutee, eCampus coordinator.

Coutee briefed School Board members on the eCampus progress and the potential to reach more students through a virtual school during a Wednesday workshop.

The system needs at least two full time and one part-time teacher to launch a virtual school in August, Coutee said.

The program could pay for itself by recruiting at least 46 home school students back to the district, he told board members.

“We have 500 home school students in the district. We need 46,” Coutee said. “We’re going to start recruiting the last week in May.”

He said the program might also attract home school parents.

“We provide the content to those parents. We’ll provide the support,” Coutee said. “That’s’ what parents want — content and support.”

When School Board President Shelton Cobb questioned the expense of more teachers for the program, which now relies on Coutee, a tutor and assistant, Superintendent Pat Cooper said new teachers might not be needed because the district might be able to shuffle existing teachers into the spots.

“One of the things we know is that we have hundreds of students out there who we can pull back in,” Cooper said.

Last year, neighboring parishes of St. Martin, Vermilion and St. Mary launched virtual schools to reach out to new students.

Coutee said Lafayette’s school is still in the developmental stages and awaits budget approval from the board.

This school year, more than 1,000 students enrolled in nearly 1,700 courses through eCampus and 175 of those students are seniors working to complete graduation requirements, he said.

Cobb said the program sounded similar to “WillGraduate,” offered by NoDropouts, a program the district contracted with this year to recruit students who dropped out of the system. Cooper said the NoDropouts program is offered “at no cost to us.”

The program’s contract is paid for by the per pupil state funding that is recaptured when those students reenroll for education services.

“WillGraduate is looking for kids who have already dropped out,” Cooper said. “Here, he’s focusing on those kids who have not dropped out or on the verge of dropping out.”