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Virtual school in Oklahoma barely obtains accreditation

The virtual school for kindergarten through 8th grade that is run through a rural school district in northeast Oklahoma came under fire Thursday by the state Board of Education.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND Modified: August 27, 2010 at 5:46 am •  Published: August 27, 2010
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"We have an obligation not to let that student languish in our setting," she said.

During the school's first year of operation, Gifford said all 400 virtual students drove to White Oak and stayed at a Holiday Inn to take state and federally mandated tests.

She said the school's test results met the state's benchmarks.

"If we don't make (adequate yearly progress) we pay the ultimate price of going out of business immediately," Gifford said.

The White Oak School Board approved a contract with K12 that gives the for-profit company 95 percent of the state aid for its virtual students and allows the district to retain 5 percent or $100,000, whichever is greater, as an administrative fee, Gifford said.

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Six virtual schools are operating in Oklahoma right now. After White Oak lost its high school because of low enrollment, K12 moved its virtual high school program to Wynona Public Schools, another rural district about 80 miles from White Oak.

Gifford said about 75 students are enrolled in that school.

Then there are four other virtual schools run by other online school companies such as Advanced Academics and Illuminated Learning.

"We're concerned, period, about this whole dynamic that is happening, but we want to put our arms around it and guide it for the taxpayer and the student who is involved," Garrett said.

A task force was created by the state legislature this session to evaluate virtual schools and develop rules to govern the often for-profit companies.

The board also discussed in executive session Thursday a court ruling to the effect that the state must fund a proposed virtual charter high school.

The board voted to appeal the ruling that Epic 1 on 1 Charter School could serve as its own district, while moving forward with the school's accreditation process.