Is cyber school in district's future?

The district would receive a fee for each pupil it can recruit for the cyber school.
AUSTINTOWN -- The township board of education is contemplating a service contract that would have the district handle marketing and recruitment for a cyber charter school.
Superintendent Doug Heuer said the Virtual Community School of Ohio, based in Reynoldsburg near Columbus, is offering Austintown a management deal that could translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars for the district.
He outlined the proposal to the board this week, and a vote on the contract is slated for Wednesday.
The proposal
The deal would have Austintown serve as the charter school's agent for all Northeast Ohio, handling marketing, student recruitment, enrollment and orientation as well as providing facilities for testing that Ohio law says must be done in person, not online over a computer.
Heuer said Austintown would get a fee for every student enrolled in the charter school. That number isn't final yet, but Heuer said the district is looking at between $1,000 and $1,200 per pupil.
The Virtual Community School of Ohio opened in 2002, offering individualized educational services for children in kindergarten through high school. It now has an enrollment of 1,300 and 52 teachers, Heuer said.
Austintown already has a number of children enrolled in virtual schools, he said, noting that the Mahoning Unlimited Classroom alone has 44. There are some others in statewide virtual schools, he said.
Home-schooled children
Northeast Ohio has an estimated 40,000 children being home-schooled, a large potential cyber school market, Heuer added. If you have a computer, you can be anywhere. You don't have to be in a classroom, he said.
Persuading just one-tenth of that number and Austintown's current virtual school pupils to enroll in the Virtual Community School of Ohio could earn the district nearly $500,000 in fees, Heuer said.
That would help offset the projected $800,000 loss in state subsidy revenue Austintown expects this year, Heuer said, pointing out the 270 Austintown children were lost to other school districts this year through open enrollment. Those children chose to attend classes outside the district, and state subsidies follow the students.
No open enrollment
Austintown doesn't offer open enrollment, and the district is looking for ways to recover some of those funds. Acting as the Northeast Ohio agent for this charter school is one way to do it, he said.
Heuer is from the Columbus area and served as superintendent in the Johnstown schools before coming to Austintown.
His familiarity with the Virtual Community School of Ohio and its founder were instrumental in Austintown's being offered the service contract, he added.

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