When Houston Independent School District launched its Virtual School program in April of 2000, its goals were strictly academic.

With a diverse student population of more than 208,000 and facing a vexing teacher shortage, the district hoped the program would expand learning opportunities while building critically needed skills for the digital age.

Now, with more than 500 students enrolled, the district is reaping public relations benefits as well, as the Virtual School program is emerging as a model for other school districts across the nation.

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