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Article posted: 9/27/2013 5:48 PM

Batavia joins study of online learning consortium

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The Batavia school district is joining several others in exploring what an online/blended-learning consortium could do for them.

The school board this week authorized school district staff to proceed with an initial planning phase.

The Kaneland school board will vote Monday whether to proceed with planning also.

Brad Newkirk, Batavia's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the effort grew out of a failed attempt to form an online charter school this spring. The districts were among 18 targeted in an Illinois Virtual Charter School at Fox Valley proposal. All 18 districts voted against it. School district trustees weren't necessarily opposed to online learning; they had many unanswered questions about the specific proposal, complicated by a rushed schedule for making a decision on the 215-page application,

"We knew it (online/blended learning) is a reality we were going to face down the road," said board member Gregg Hodge.

The other potential members of the consortium are Indian Prairie Unit District 204, Naperville Unit District 203 and Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200.

The $40,000 cost of the consultant that will lead the planning will be split proportionately by enrollment, with Batavia paying 9 percent and Kaneland 7 percent.

Batavia board member Melanie Impastato wanted to make sure that as the little guy at the table, Batavia's needs and views wouldn't be given less weight. Newkirk assured her that so far, that has not been the case. Each of the participating districts is expected to send one representative to meetings.

Blended learning involves online delivery of at least some content and instruction to students.

Superintendent Lisa Hichens said other districts are interested in the idea of a consortium, but are leaving the initial planning to the first five.

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