- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 8, 2001

BALTIMORE — In this age of computers, many educators see it as inevitable that students will someday learn in classrooms without walls, desks or face-to-face contact with teachers.
But part of that prophecy remains shadowy: the students who eventually will populate Web-based schools.
Maryland plans to open a virtual high school for up to 650 students next year and use it for accelerated classes, remediation and students who cannot make it to school.
Texas students have used Web-based classes to fulfill requirements in the summer so they can take electives during the school year. Michigan has sent teen parents to virtual schools, and Kentucky has tested Web-based classes in juvenile detention centers.
Still other states see possibilities for home-schooled students.
"I think that the reason why schools are looking toward a Web-enabled course is because they see it serving a variety of needs. It is the community's needs that tend to drive adoption," said Katherine Endacott, president of Classmates.com Inc., which helps educators open their own online schools.
Education officials in Maryland describe themselves as relative newcomers to Web-based learning. At least a half-dozen states have established virtual schools, and about a third of states either have a virtual school or plan to create one.
When Maryland officials began studying the possibility more than a year ago, they saw it as a way to offer advanced placement classes to students who did not have them in their own school buildings.
It soon became clear that a virtual school could offer remedial classes to low-performing students, or basic classes to those who can't attend school because of long-term illnesses or behavioral problems.
"We looked at it from the very beginning as an accelerated or enrichment area. Then, of course, we saw the remedial piece," said John Cox, an assistant superintendent in Charles County, who is helping to plan the state's virtual school.

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