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N.H. Virtual Charter School Expands During Pandemic

Courtesy of VLACS/Facebook

New Hampshire's online public charter school is expanding in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Virtual Learning Academy Charter School, known as VLCAS, offers full-time online school to nearly 300 students in New Hampshire, mostly in high school. Approximately another 12,000 high schoolers who are enrolled in their local public schools also take some VLACS classes.

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But with normal school upended by the pandemic, more families are turning to VLACS.

The school is waiting on final enrollment numbers, but CEO Steve Kossakoski says his staff are fielding more calls than ever from interested parents, as well as districts looking for online resources to offer students who can't return to school safely.

At the request of the Department of Education, VLACS is also expanding its offerings. On Thursday, the State Board of Education approved it to offer online school to kindergarten and grades 1-3 for the first time.

 “We hope that students will be able to return to their classrooms this fall, but that will likely not be the case for every student,” said Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut after the board approval. “VLACS can help local school districts meet the need for remote instruction so that every student is served.”

More VLACS students would expand charter school costs for the state, though it is difficult to assess the overall economic impact of VLACS expansion, since local charter schools rely on less support from local tax payers than traditional public schools do.

The state will pay VLACS $6,000 for every New Hampshire student who enrolls there full-time, and it will pay on a per-credit basis for the thousands of others who take some classes at VLACS.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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