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Virtual High School open to more students

Aug. 12, 2014 - 09:19AM   |  
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More military children are eligible to take courses through the Department of Defense Education Activity’s Virtual High School, thanks to legislation being implemented this school year.

Children of active-duty service members who are attending a public school or other accredited educational program this fall in the U.S. can enroll in courses through the DoDEA Virtual High School, if they just left an overseas DoDEA school program. They must have attended an overseas DoDEA school program immediately prior to enrolling in Virtual High School courses in conjunction with their school in the U.S.

The goal is to allow students to complete coursework started overseas, or to solve a scheduling conflict with other required courses.

The new provision applies to students who attended Department of Defense Dependents Schools, or the Non-DoD Schools Program for students living overseas where DoDDS schools are unavailable.

Previously, eligibility for the DoDEA Virtual High School followed the same requirements for students attending any DoDEA brick-and-mortar school, to include stateside Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools.

This expanded eligibility does not apply to students who are moving from a DDESS school or a DoDDS school in a U.S. territory.

There is a charge for the courses of $549 per semester unit. Since many of the courses run for both semesters, tuition is $1,098 for the year. Each semester is paid for individually, and tuition covers any required education materials, although students are required to have their own computers and Internet connections.

The students pay tuition because they are no longer technically eligible to attend a DoDEA school, and this would recoup some of the costs, said Patricia Riley, chief of DoDEA’s distance learning and virtual school program.

“We recognize how hard it is, when students are transitioning back and forth, to complete requirements for finishing high school,” Riley said.

“This legislation was in response to continued understanding of where we needed to address gaps. Parents were saying, ‘Our students started this in DoDEA and now they can’t continue it.’... This is an opportunity to ensure all our students in all high schools have equal access to courses they need to fulfill their career and college requirements.”

A list of the 70-plus courses offered through the DoDEA Virtual High School is available at www.dodea.edu. Click on “DoDEA HQ” then “Virtual High School.” For more information or to enroll, email http://vs.principal@hq.dodea.edu.

Recognizing that there are many students who are moving during the summer, officials will work with individual students to transfer from DoDEA to this individual course work, Riley said.

The courses may be particularly helpful for those who have started foreign language courses, Advanced Placement courses, and career technical education such as computer programming courses, Riley said.For example, during a meeting the week of Aug. 4, a Japanese teacher said it would be helpful for some students who had moved this summer after taking Japanese II; this would allow them to take Japanese III.

Parents should check with their new school for coordination and to make sure the school will accept the credits. The DoDEA Virtual High School counselors, who have worked at brick-and-mortar schools and are familiar with the transition issues of military children, can help parents communicate with the receiving schools about accepting credits, setting up a good virtual classroom if the student is taking the class during school hours, helping with course integrity such as proctoring tests, and other needs.

These courses are part of students’ academic coursework, just as any of their courses in their brick-and-mortar schools, with accountability, tests, expectations and grades.

The Virtual High School has grown steadily in the last five years, reaching an enrollment of about 1,800 students last year.

“The ability to take classes and earn credit through an online system should help students transition more smoothly and graduate on time,” said Eileen Huck, government relations deputy director for the National Military Family Association.

But, Huck added, “I would love to see eligibility expanded so more military kids could benefit from this program — particularly those who are transferring from a DDESS school to a local public or private school.”

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