- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Dozens of Nebraska home-schoolers are forging a new educational path at Omaha’s Virtual School.

The program, run by Omaha Public Schools, is the first K-8 virtual school in the state according to the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/2f4Y5ra ). Classes started in August for the 160 students of the program’s inaugural class.

The virtual school uses a blended model that includes the students learning at home via their parents and online lessons, and receiving instruction as a group from school district teachers. During the time the students are taught as a group, they gather once a week at Omaha’s digital library, Do Space. Group activities range from computer coding through online games, to math lessons with blocks, to conducting science experiments.

Most of the students in the free program live within OPS’ boundaries, but some live within other school districts. Before the program started, OPS held more than a dozen information sessions for home-school families and set aside enough space for 300 students.

The program is only open to home-schooled students this year due to funding reasons, but the goal is to offer the virtual classes to a range of students looking for a nontraditional school setting. For the current school year, OPS budgeted a little over $495,000 from its general fund for the program.

With virtual schools growing in other states as well, OPS officials have acknowledged the negative effects of less student-teacher interactions and said the district’s hybrid of online and in-person instruction would make a positive difference.

The virtual school has core classes in language arts, math, science and social studies. It also offers two electives: virtual design and innovation, and introduction to computer programming. In order for students to participate, they must sign up for at least two classes, but aren’t required to enroll full time since many parents still teach the bulk of the lessons.

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

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