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Can a computer replace a classroom?

Two Marshalltown students may test waters in Iowa Virtual Academy

March 18, 2012
By ANDREW POTTER - Staff Writer ( , Times-Republican

When brothers Caine, 10 and Ethan Garrett, 10, go to school this fall there might not be any backpacks to load up or buses to catch.

No, they will just have to turn on the computer.

The Marshalltown residents could be among the first students in the new Iowa Virtual Academy, which is run entirely through the computer and telephone calls between staff and students.

Article Photos

Marshalltown brothers Ethan, 7, left, and Caine Garrett, 10, could be enrolling in the new Iowa Virtual Academy where most of the work is done online and not in the classroom.

Iowa Virtual Academy, also known as the IAVA, will give lessons online as teachers will be in touch with students for several hours daily.

Caine and Ethan's mother, Amanda Sanford, said she looked into the school as a way to boost their interest in school and achieving. She also thinks she can be more a part of the process this way.

"I would be able to have more time with my kids and help them with their work at home," Sanford said.

The academy is operated through Clayton Ridge School District in Guttenberg and is part of the public school system. Students from districts across the state can attend by open enrolling out of their own district. Sanford has filed the papers for her sons to open enroll to IAVA, but said she is still 50/50 whether she wants them to officially be students next year or stay at Franklin Elementary School, where she said the teachers have been great.

Sanford said if she sees enough progress in the classroom in the next few months she may choose the public school route and doesn't plan to have them in IAVA for the long term either.

"I don't think I will keep them in there forever," she said.

Caine is worried about missing time with his friends.

"It will be weird," he said.

By open enrolling out, the $6,000 of state aid provided per pupil goes with them to the Iowa Virtual Academy, so there is no tuition cost to families enrolling students at the online school.

The academy is run by K12 Inc., which operates online schools in dozens of states and is based in Virginia.

Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, voiced his concern recently about tax money being transferred out of state to this online provider and wanted a certain percentage to stay in Iowa.

"I don't think that's fair," he said. "I don't want my property taxes going out of state for that."

Allan Nelson, superintendent of Clayton Ridge, said much of the money that follows the student to the Iowa Virtual Academy stays in the state.

"Most of the money returns to Iowa to pay for administration and faculty serving the IAVA," Nelson said. "Hence, most of the taxpayer dollars are invested in highly qualified staff, curriculum, technology and management services generating economic activity here in Iowa."



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