The Board of Education Thursday night unanimously approved a new policy that would let some students take courses on their laptops instead of in a classroom.
School districts in Connecticut are now required to have distance learning policies on the books in response to the growing numbers of students taking advantage of online courses.
Nationwide, more than 1.8 million elementary and secondary students enrolled in some form of distance education during the 2009-2010 school year, according to the International Association for K-12 online learning.
In Cheshire, the new policy will allow students to take Internet classes for credit with their teacher’s recommendation and principal’s permission, but only for specific reasons.
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These include, among other things, making up a failed course or taking a class the school doesn’t offer. Distance learning could also be an option for students who are unable to enroll in a traditional course because of a scheduling conflict.
Under the policy, the workload must be the same as a course taught in a traditional classroom and the class must be taught by a certified teacher or offered by an accredited college or university.
Scott Detrick, assistant superintendent for instruction, said Cheshire students have been allowed to take virtual courses for credit in the past, but it was only for extenuating circumstances and the practice has not been widespread. He said distance learning is something the district might be interested in exploring in the future, however.
Virtual classes wouldn’t replace existing face-to-face classes but would be offered in addition to current courses, he said.
“We are considering adding Mandarin Chinese to our offerings at Cheshire High School next year as one of our world languages. We anticipate some difficulty finding a qualified teacher,” Detrick said.
If that happens and enough students were interested, offering an online course might be an option, Detrick explained.
Students would also be allowed to take online courses, according to the policy, if they have been expelled or are homebound, or if it is recommended as part of a special education plan.
In other business...
The school board approved spending $14,242 on the purchase of two new textbooks, pending approval of next year’s budget.
The books are Prego: An invitation to Italian, which will be used in the World Languages curriculum at the high school, and A Guide to Good Food, which will be used as part of the district’s Food, Nutrition and Wellness curriculum.
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