School Board hears about ‘Virtual Academy’ through Career Center

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Could a student at Switzerland County High School take an advanced placement course with students all around the country? Could a student who needs to retake some classes in order to graduate get back on track and graduate on time with his or her classmates? Could a student take a needed class on schedule that doesn’t fit into their daily schedule?

When talking about the “Indiana Virtual Academy”, the answer to all of those questions is “yes.”

Dr. Fred Sagester, director of the Indiana Virtual Academy, spoke to the Switzerland County School Board at its regular monthly meeting on Monday night about the program and how it might benefit county students.

The program is headquartered at the Southeastern Career Center in Versailles, but students take classes online in a variety of subject areas. Offering online high school courses, classes range from basic math and English classes to upper level science classes that may not be offered in small schools because of a lack of students interested in such a class.

But the real value in the program is in its “credit recovery” program. Students who didn’t earn credit in required classes can now make up that semester or year online without losing ground with their classmates. There is a charge for classes, but Dr. Sagester said that many school corporations are covering the costs of taking credit recovery courses, charging each student a small fee, because it saves time and space in classrooms.

Dr. Sagester said that because of the design of the course material, a student can complete an 18-week semester in 15-weeks, and that the work can be done online at the convenience of the student, so a student can catch up at night while maintaining regular classes during the day.

Following the presentation, Superintendent Tracy Caddell told the board that he would like to begin discussions with Dr. Sagester on the school contracting to purchase a number of class units for the program, which would be used for students needing credit recovery classes.

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The school board also heard about “Project Lead the Way”, which is a pre-engineering course of study that is designed to prepare the next generation of professionals.

The project is being spearheaded by Southeastern Career Center director Brad Street, who told the board on Monday night that there are already a number of schools in this area that are having great success with the program.

“It’s a pre-engineering course, and it’s an excellent opportunity for college credit,” Brad Street said.

He told the board that he has been able to obtain grants in the amount of $20,000 for schools that want to be a part of the program, and that money can be used to pay for teacher training and stipends, high end laptops that are needed in the program; and other materials that the school might need.

He also said that the school is reimbursed by the government for each student in the class, with the school receiving $450 for each student.

“The program is a four year sequence of courses which, when combined with traditional mathematics and science courses in high school, introduces student to the scope, rigor, and discipline of engineering prior to entering college,” the project’s website says.

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The school board also heard a request to the School Endowment Corporation for the construction of new bleachers, a press box, and other things for the high school track.

The superintendent said that Switzerland County has been fortunate to host many sectionals during the past few years, but holding the school back from hosting sectionals for sports such as soccer and track is the lack of enough bleacher space and a press box out of the weather for officials to use during those tournaments.

Tracy Caddell said that he had spoke to the IHSAA, and that it had given him minimum requirements for bleacher seating in order to be considered for sectionals. The proposal brought by the high school meets those minimum standards.

The total cost of the project, including the press box and concrete pads to hold the bleachers, was approximately $110,000.

The school board approved this going to the endowment corporation.

The school board also approved a request from the high school for $6,233.59, asking the endowment to purchase a variety of items, from new folding chairs and racks to folding tables and lights for the flag pole. This was also approved.

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In other business discussed by the school board:

– Kitchen deep fryers at the high school were declared as surplus, because the high school is now using healthier convection steamers instead of deep frying.

– In personnel matters: the resignation of Brooke Levell was accepted; Megan Lohide was approved as the middle school sixth grade cheerleading coach; Steve Clark was approved as the boys sixth grade basketball coach; and Dawn Powell was approved as a computer lab aide/assistant at Switzerland County Elementary School.

– Professional leave and field trip requests were approved.

– The next board meeting will be held on Monday, November 26th, rather than the normal date of November 19th.