Facing budget crisis, Lawrence County looks to create a virtual school

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.
Data pix.

MOULTON, Ala. (WHNT) - It's no secret that Lawrence County schools are dealing with funding shortfalls, the result of the county's largest employer shutting down. In fact, the full impact of the funding crisis isn't expected to hit until the start of the next school year. So it piqued our interest to learn the system is not just looking at creating more online courses, or even a virtual classroom, but a virtual school.

It would be an entire school that would exist only within the realm of the internet.

"What we're looking at is using ACCESS, which is free to our students. We have our interface that we're going to use here which is Google Classroom. We're a Google Apps for Education district. That's a free software that's provided to us. That will be where their teacher of record will check in with them, post any announcements or anything like that," says Curriculum Director Casey Reed.

Reed says attendance would be monitored by when the students log on and complete their work online. They would visit an actual school only to take tests, or participate in extracurricular activities.

"Academically we should not ask a child to come in, unplug and shut down because education has not caught up to where these digital native students are coming," Reed said.

But what this school system is also facing is a financial crisis brought about by the closing earlier this year of International Paper.  It was the area's largest employer and generated some $2 million a year in tax revenue for the schools alone. In previous conversations, Superintendent Heath Grimes has told us he does not know how the system is going to make up for the loss.

"You know, that's the 600-pound elephant that's sitting in the room in every meeting we have in this district, is what are we going to do when we move forward," Casey Reed explained.

Reed says the application for a virtual school in Lawrence County is not driven by the county's financial situation. But he does say that it may offer something of a safety net for students who are affected by next year's financial difficulties.

Grimes has told us the loss of $2 million for a school system their size is beyond significant, it's unsustainable.  Others within the school system say without additional revenues it can only mean consolidating some schools and eliminating elective programs.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.