- Associated Press - Monday, August 1, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Omaha Public Schools is set to open its first virtual school for kindergarten through eighth-grade students this month.

The Omaha Virtual School will be open to home-schooled students, giving them a mix of face-to-face instruction and online lessons, the Omaha World-Herald reported (https://bit.ly/2aJ5AFv ).

Students participating in the free program will be given a laptop to receive instruction at home at their own pace. They’ll also be required to report in person once a week for face-to-face activities, such as science labs or field trips.

“I believe strongly that a school isn’t just about the building, it’s about the students,” said Wendy Loewenstein, the director of the virtual school. “Not every student can find success in a traditional school environment, and our school will be providing another option for families to explore.”

The school board unanimously approved the program last month and has received more than 180 applications from students who wish to enroll. Enrollment will be capped at 300 for the first year.

Students will be required to sign up for at least two courses, which cover core subject areas such as math and language arts, as well as several technology-oriented electives.

The district plans to hire four teachers and a student learning advocate, similar to a school counselor.

Superintendent Mark Evans said the program will avoid the pitfalls that have challenged virtual schools in other states.

“It’s not uncommon to see articles across the nation about online schools that didn’t do well,” he said at the July 18 school board meeting. “In other states I’ve seen it happen because they didn’t do it the right way. What you just heard tonight in this brief description is someone doing it the right way.”

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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