An agreement that will allow students at three area school districts to take online courses this fall was approved Wednesday by the Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 school board.
For more than a year, District 200 has been working with Naperville Unit District 203 and Indian Prairie Unit District 204 to create a new virtual learning consortium that will offer online classes to high school students next year and "blended learning" courses in the future.
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The new agreement allows the three districts to move forward without help from a consultant. It also includes details about financial arrangements, governance of the group and future development.
Faith Dahlquist, assistant superintendent of educational services, said the search is already on for a director who will lead the consortium and a technical support specialist who will help teachers implement the courses.
Courses likely to be offered in the 2014-15 school year include U.S. history, consumer economics, government, geometry, algebra I, English for credit recovery and electives such as Mandarin and computer coding.
The initial startup cost for District 200 -- which is equal to the other districts and meant to last through all of next school year -- was about $85,000. Dahlquist said so far, about $15,000 of that has been spent on the project.
She said there are additional costs relating to the consortium that are proportional by the districts' size, such as the selection of a learning management system.
"As we add more classes, which I think we will, there could be an increased cost in the curriculum content that we buy or additional professional development," she said.
Some board members expressed concerns with how long it took for the intergovernmental agreement to be drafted and brought back before them, because the last discussion they had about the consortium was in late January.
"It has taken longer to get all of the parties to agree to some of this language. I don't see that being a trend or a work pattern," Dahlquist said, adding that officials from all three districts are planning to meet next week to make sure course registration for the 2015-16 school year is ready by October.
"I do think that a lot of the language in here will help us operate more quickly because we tried to cover questions that we will encounter, whether we stay the same or whether we grow dramatically," she said.
Batavia Unit District 101 and Kaneland Unit District 302 were part of the original discussions about the consortium, but both backed out early this year due to the startup costs.