Budget cuts could force Missouri's statewide virtual school to close midway through the academic year, leaving students with half-earned credits scrambling to complete their education.

Some students, just a few credits shy of graduation, could wind up as high school dropouts. Others, struggling with cancer, could miss their only chance to earn a degree.

The school in question is the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program, which offers internet-based courses for everyone from kindergartners to high school seniors. The online public school began just three years ago and already has served a few thousand students.

About half the children are taking courses to supplement their


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