First online experiment in Iowa fizzled

2012-02-19T07:00:00Z First online experiment in Iowa fizzledBy MIKE WISER Journal Des Moines bureau Sioux City Journal
February 19, 2012 7:00 am  • 

DES MOINES -- K12 is opening a new online school at Clayton Ridge this fall in Iowa, marking the second time the online learning company will make a run at the Iowa market.

In 2003, K12 partnered with the Pocahontas School District to run the state's first online school, but it never went far.

Iowa Department of Education Administrative Law Judge Carol Greta said the program K12 was offering in Pocahontas didn't meet state standards for an online school and was instead classified as a home school assistance program.

That meant that instead of receiving 100 percent of the state aid for each student that enrolled, minus a cut that would go to Pocahontas for an administrative fee, K12 would receive 60 percent. Now if a program is classified as a home school help program, it receives 30 percent funding.

Greta said the company was told what it needed to do in order to get the 100 percent, but it instead pulled out of the project.

"I'd say that's accurate," said Mike Wright, who was superintendent at the Pocahontas School District at the time and is now superintendent at the Earlham School District.

Wright said K12's new project in the state had him reflecting on the project from nine years ago.

"We thought there was a small niche of students in the state that could benefit from a school like that," Wright said.

He gave the example of a student who was expelled from school for carrying a weapon but still needed to complete his education, or an athlete training for the Olympics whose schedule keeps him away from the classroom for extended periods of time.

"It's not surprising something like this would come back," Wright said. "If you just look at how much more common online learning is now than it was even then, it makes sense that it would come back."

Jeff Kwitowski, a K12 spokesman, said he couldn't speak directly to what changed since K12 abandoned the Pocahontas plan and when it decided to partner with Clayton Ridge.

"There are a variety of different reasons that could have impacted the decision," he said. "What happens in one state changes what happens in other states. People are more used to the concept of online learning and (K12) offers a wider variety of services than we did in 2003."

Copyright 2015 Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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