Going to School, Virtually

Houston operates the state's only virtual public school. Students from across the state can take classes from home under the umbrella of the HISD system. The virtual school was a pilot program that's about to expand to reach a thousand students. Laurie Johnson reports.

Back in December, 100 students quietly enrolled in a new HISD virtual school program. The students study at home, using state-approved curriculum and internet modules.

"We know that parents wants choices. And choices is what we want to offer them."

That's LaMyrle Ituah. She's the charter schools administrator for HISD. Ituah says some families need the flexibility of keeping their children at home. The virtual school program provides that flexibility, but includes the instruction and accountability of public school.

"We want the parents to realize that alternative is not just, like you say, troubled kids. Alternative means choice. If your child is troubled, we have a choice school for them. If the child is gifted and talented, we have one there. If they have special needs. So we have choices, if you're not pleased with your current situation or status where they are in the schools then you have a choice."

LeeAnn Lockard is the principal of Houston Connections Academy, the school that administers the virtual program.

"The other day I was talking to a parent and he was telling me that his son literally gets up in the morning and runs to a computer to start school."

She says it's the only program of its kind in Texas. It's tuition-free and kids from anywhere in the state can enroll.

"They're going to follow a planner that outlines the classes that they're to do that day. And then as those courses are completed, grades go into a grade book. And there's also other assignments that they're responsible for besides what's in the learning management system and what's in the planner, along with online curriculum they do receive textbooks and CDs and other materials."

Students who need one are also given a computer so they can meet the program's requirements. The virtual school is funded through the Texas Education Agency.

HISD already has 500 students signed up and hopes to add another 500 by the start of the school year.

The district is holding a series of information sessions about the program next week. There are details about times and locations at http://www.connectionsacademy.com/texas-school/events.aspx .

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...