Centre’s Kansas Online Learning Program, now is in its seventh year, has benefited the district’s traditional classes, coordinator Vickie Jirak told the Centre school board Monday.
“When I went through the numbers, I was on a natural high,” she said. “Virtual has paid for itself and helped our brick and mortar.”
In the program’s first five years, the district received $5,000 from the state for each student enrolled on Sept. 20. Enrollment ranged from 23.7 in 2010-’11 to 282.8 in 2014-’15.
Funding changed in 2015-’16. It remained the same for kindergarten through 12th grade, but for adults, it was based on credits earned.
“It was like starting over when the funding changed,” Jirak said.
The program began urging adult enrollees to complete a class in a month to six weeks. She believes it has helped.
The first year after the change, adults earned 143.5 credits. So far this year, despite fewer enrollees, they have earned 177.5 credits, with four months to go.
A total of 410 K-12 students were enrolled in the program’s kindergarten through 12th-grade classes Sept. 20.
Money spent on advertising has increased every year. Jirak works through an advertising agency to promote the program. She will begin buying ads for next year this month.
Board members praised Jirak, who credited her assistants Melissa Barton and Michelle Knepp as well as many student-learning advocates who monitor enrollees’ progress.
“You’ve done a hell of a job,” board member Jesse Brunner said.
The board approved $100,000 for advertising the program for 2016-’17.
Technology director Andrew Linville reported installation of several more Internet access points in the school.
He also plans to replace teachers’ 8-year-old computers, which are two years past normal retirement. He said he would use money from the federal Rural Education Achievement Program to purchase new ones.
He also reported that a new fiber optic network based in Marion is being considered by the Technology Excellence in Education Network that connects five school districts — Centre, Herington, Hillsboro, Marion, and Peabody-Burns.
Whenever weather shuts down Internet access at Centre, the whole network goes down, and Linville is responsible for bringing it back up. With the new network, only Centre would be affected.
Linville said Centre uses more bandwidth than other schools in the network because its teachers use more technology in their classrooms.