LIVINGSTON, La. (The Livingston Parish News) — Starting in the fall, the Livingston Parish Public Schools system will be able to reach more students than ever before — and it’ll save some money at the same time.
Livingston Virtual, an online program targeting homeschool and current charter or virtual school students, will open in fall of 2020.
The creation of the new program, which will be based at the Livingston Parish Literacy and Technology Center, serves a two-fold purpose: To reach more children in grades 6-12 residing in Livingston Parish but not enrolled in the school system, and to recoup Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) funds lost to charter and virtual programs.
The Livingston Parish School Board voted 8-0 to approve the Livingston Virtual administrator position during its meeting on Thursday, Feb. 20. Brad Sharp, of District 1, was absent from the meeting.
During the meeting, Superintendent Joe Murphy lauded Assistant Superintendent Jody Purvis for his work implementing the program over the last three months. He also called Livingston Virtual a “big step forward for Livingston Parish.”
“It’s been a long time coming,” Murphy said. “It’s an opportunity for us to better meet the needs of students we haven’t been able to reach in our current situation. It also does allow us to make sure our children in Livingston Parish stay right here in Livingston Parish.
“We are very excited. This is a big step forward for Livingston Parish and we’re very proud of this.”
Livingston Virtual is a program, not a school, meaning students are allowed to learn at their own pace and in any place of their choosing. However, students enrolled in Livingston Virtual will be tied to their school district. (For example: A 10th-grader living in Springfield would be counted in Springfield High’s enrollment).
Coursework will be available to Livingston Virtual students 24 hours a day through an accredited web-based program approved by the Louisiana Department of Education. Courses can be completed anywhere with internet access, and the students’ progress will be monitored by the Livingston Virtual staff.
In the program, students will complete regular learning modules but be required to take tests at the Literacy and Technology Center, where an administrator and two teachers will be staffed. Purvis said the goal is to set up satellite campuses to reach students who may live in more remote areas of the parish.
If a student needs assistance, he or she will be able to reach out to the Livingston Virtual staff via email, video conferencing, or by visiting the Literacy and Technology Center.
The goal is to reach as many students as possible, Purvis said, regardless if they prefer the traditional classroom setting or not.
“Brick and mortar schools may not be for all students for a variety of reasons,” Purvis said. “This is just another way for us to reach those students we haven’t been able to in the past.”
There are currently 533 homeschool students residing in Livingston Parish but not enrolled in the school system, according to figures Purvis provided to the School Board’s Athletic/Staff Committee, which meant to discuss Livingston Virtual on Wednesday, Feb. 19.
The number of homeschoolers residing in — but currently enrolled in charter or virtual programs outside of — Livingston Parish will result in a $2.6 million loss in MFP funds for the 2019-20 school year. Of that total, $1.8 million alone will go to University View, an online charter school in Baton Rouge.
Enrolling homeschool or charter/virtual program students in Livingston Virtual will allow the school system to recoup some of those lost MFP funds while also providing additional resources to students residing in Livingston Parish, Purvis said.
In other words, a “win-win” for everyone.
“There are students who do better in an online program than the traditional classroom setting, so this is a benefit to them because we’re offering a high-quality curriculum,” Purvis said. “We’re going to try our best to offer dual-enrollment for them as well as opportunities to earn college credit. In return, it’s a benefit for us because we’re recouping the dollars that we’re losing.”
Purvis said the school system plans to accept student applications twice a year, starting this the summer through at least late September and again in January 2021. Student enrollment will be conducted through an application process that includes screenings and a review by an application committee.
The school system will advertise for the administrator position “fairly quickly,” Purvis said, though no timetable had been set as of Thursday’s meeting.
Purvis admitted there are still some issues that need to be worked out, such as extracurricular activities and graduation for Livingston Virtual students. Livingston Virtual will be funded initially through an Education Excellence Fund (EEF) grant until the program can sustain its own cost.
However, Purvis said it was important to the school system to get the program up and running so they can begin reaching those students that haven’t been reached in the past.
“It’s all about additional opportunities for students,” Purvis said. “This is just another option to the brick and mortar schools.”
For any questions about Livingston Virtual, contact Purvis at email@example.com.