Students in western Kentucky school districts who are removed from their classes for behavioral problems are receiving their classroom instruction via the internet. It’s happening through a project called Electronic Community School, and it could provide a new way to keep schools safe while helping troubled students complete their studies.

The program allows districts to comply with a new state law that requires schools to provide an alternative program for an expelled student, unless he or she poses a threat to teachers or other students.

Mike Hicks, director of middle school education for the Bullitt County, Ky., Public Schools, compared the program to an online correspondence course. “When students log on, they can go at their individual pace,” he said.

Until now, the county has taught its most troubled students in the district’s alternative and day-treatment programs. But some of the students, school officials say, don’t belong in even those specialized settings.

The county’s school board approved a grant application in September to allow it to participate in the project. The $50,000 grant application through the state Department of Education is for the purchase of computers, training, and online fees so students can complete their lessons from computers in their homes.

Electronic Community School

The program is coordinated through the Badgett Regional Cooperative for Educational Enhancement, a group of 12 school districts in western Kentucky. The cooperative is connected to the Redstone Arsenal, a Huntsville, Ala., military base that provides the online curriculum.

The Bullitt County district would pay $25 per month for every student in the program. Although students would be at home, the district would receive average-daily-attendance money from the state for any participating student.

The program, already in more than 20 Kentucky school districts, also can serve gifted students, students homebound because of illness or disability, and students who have committed crimes, said Brenda Glover, Badgett’s professional development director.

“This is an extension of the school where the student can sign on via the internet and connect to their curriculum and to whatever courses they’re taking,” Glover said.

Students using the program must stay on the computer at least six hours a day, five days a week. The Badgett Cooperative can tell when a student goes three days without using the computer, prompting a visit by a school official to the student’s home, Glover said.

Though the length of time students take to complete a course varies, it generally is about four months.

The program can be used by students who are out of school for an entire school year or for as little as 10 days. Though Bullitt County plans to have the computers in students’ homes, other school districts have used such off-campus buildings as a public library or a county courthouse.

Homebound and gifted

In Trigg County, school officials use the program as part of their alternative education project, with expelled students and with a homebound gifted student, said Mary Ann Fourqurean, instructional supervisor for the school district. A teacher and a teacher’s aide supervise the program, set up in an off-campus building.

At Trigg schools, the program has been used mainly by students with discipline problems, but Fourqurean said the program should be seen as another way for schools to reach a student, not push him or her away.

“I probably would not view it so much as a way to get them out of the classroom as much as … we were not successful with them in the classroom and this gives us another opportunity,” Fourqurean said.

In Henderson County, school officials began using the program Sept. 14 with one student, said Mike Freels, deputy superintendent. With the district spending up to $5,000 on Electronic Community School, Freels said he hopes between three and five students will be able to participate.

Freels said the biggest drawback is that students won’t have daily contact with teachers.

Links:

Bullitt County Public Schools
http://www.bullitt.k12.ky.us

Badgett Regional Cooperative for Educational Enhancement
http://170.183.27.12/