Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Hoosier Academies Virtual Charter School To Close In June

The front door of the Hoosier Academy administrative offices and school on Far Eastside of Indianapolis at 2855 North Franklin Road. The building houses the K-12 Hoosier Academy blended learning school, Hoosier Virtual Academy, and the new Insight School of Indiana middle school. (Eric Weddle/WFYI News)

The front door of the Hoosier Academy administrative offices and school on Far Eastside of Indianapolis at 2855 North Franklin Road. The building houses the K-12 Hoosier Academy blended learning school, Hoosier Virtual Academy, and the new Insight School of Indiana middle school. (Eric Weddle/WFYI News)

The board of the chronically failing Hoosier Academies Virtual School voted Tuesday not to seek renewal of their charter, a decision that will cause the school of 2,000 students to close in June.

John Marske, Hoosier Academies board president, told WFYI News in an email Wednesday that the school had until Oct. 1 to submit a renewal application.

“Although the Board has seen evidence of significant improvement at Hoosier Virtual,” he wrote in an email, “We did not feel the academic data, available as of October 1, 2017, was sufficient to pass the rigors of a charter application process.”

In 2016 Ball State University, the school’s authorizer, approved a two-year charter extension with the expectation to see improvements before granting more years of operation. A resolution to not seek charter renewal from Ball State, approved by the board Tuesday, says its for-profit Virginia-based management company K12, Inc. agreed it was not in students’ interest to seek renewal.

Marske says the board’s attention is focused on trying to answer questions from families of the 2,000 students in grades K-12 currently enrolled. More than 120 teachers taught at the school last year, according to state data.

“Our intention is to give our families and teachers as many options as possible,” he says.

Hoosier Academies Virtual earned six consecutive Fs on the state’s accountability scale as of last year – two more than what’s required for state intervention of a charter school. The school provides a 100-percent online education for students across Indiana.

The school recently escaped closure by the State Board of Education who was required to consider sanctions due to years of failing academic performance. Instead, the board capped enrollment at the school’s May 2017 level and reduced the administrative fee that Ball State receives as the charter authorizer.

At the time, State Superintendent of Public Instruction and board chair Jennifer McCormick criticized the school for not following the state’s academic standards and for a policy that led to the expulsion of more than 800 students for truancy during the past three years.

In May, Ball State’s charter office and Hoosier Academies announced a turnaround plan to build a new academic culture at the school. Former

School leader Byron Ernest, a political appointee to the State Board of Education, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

When Hoosier Academies Virtual opened in 2009 it was Indiana’s first online school. Now, there are four Indiana public schools that offer 100-percent online classes to about 10,000 K-12 students, including some who cite health, social and bullying issues as the reason for choosing online education.

Marske says the Hoosier Academies board will now shift its focus to improving two other schools under its umbrella — Hoosier Hybrid and Hoosier Insight school in Indianapolis.

The state-funded preschool pilot program that began with five counties has been expanded this year.  Low-income families in 10 counties, including Delaware and Madison counties, can get state-funded grants to pay for preschool for their 4-year-old children beginning next January.

New this year to the state program is a work requirement.  Parents or guardians must be working or attending school or an accredited training program.  When the requirement was announced in June, Carrie Bale with the By5 Early Childhood Initiative said it would be barrier for some families in the area.

“In the first round three years ago, it was an income qualifier – and that was the only qualifier,” Bale says.  “With this new round coming out, it’s an income qualifier of 127 percent of poverty, plus the parents have to be working or going to school.  That’s going to be our challenge.”

If a family receives a state-funded grant, it can send a child to any preschool provider on a state-approved list that offers half-day or full-day classes.  An online map on the state’s website shows 10 provider locations in Delaware County and three in Madison County.

Five additional counties will take applications to begin sessions in the 2018-2019 school year.

According to numbers from the Family and Social Services Administration, about 6,700 4-year-olds in the new 15 counties will be eligible for the pre-k benefits.

To apply for On My Way Pre-K, click here.

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