INDEPENDENCE — The Central School District board of directors voted unanimously June 7 to authorize the administration to continue developing an online academy.

When schools were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Central School District implemented comprehensive distance learning, which it carried into the 2020-21 school year.

As the pandemic wound down and the school district transitioned to more in person learning back in classrooms, the administration poled its community to determine which learning model they preferred.

Superintendent Jennifer Kubista said 16% of families that responded definitely would choose an online option for the 2021-22 school year. In addition, 91 high school families would choose the online only option.

“To meet needs of these students, we’d like to keep Central School District with an online academy,” Kubista told the board members at their June 7 meeting.

The specifics of the program are still being worked out, she said. Families choosing to enroll students in Central Online Academy (COA) may do so during the annual enrollment process. Details they’ve narrowed so far include the online academy would be an independent program that would require students to be enrolled full time and in return receive a COA diploma from Central High School. Students will also get the opportunity to take secondary classes on a limited basis as space is available and participate in extracurricular activities.

Kubista said she is still in talks with union leadership to determine staffing for the COA. Because there is a teacher shortage, space in the program may be limited to start. Teaching and support staff will be assigned based on projected enrollment using data from PowerSchool enrollments received between June and September.

The curriculum to be used will be K-12/STRIDE, as well as Edgenuity. Kubista said the district is looking at building in-person tutoring opportunities for COA students. The workgroup will continue to plan for COA during June through August, including assessing the curriculum and staffing needs.

Enrollment will be open to any resident student, while non-resident students will be approved on a case-by-case basis.

Board Chair Steve Love said he wanted to see more definition of how COA was going to work.

“This gives the go ahead to keep planning, develop a target date, maybe August, for a formal charter,” Love said.

He added the administration still needs to narrow how they really decide who gets to attend, how to measure the program progress and how to determine if it’s working or not.

Board Member Don Wahl added developing the online academy remains a fluid situation.

“This is something that would be good to have updates on every other board agenda,” Wahl suggested.

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