Hartselle to talk up Virtual Academy ahead of expected passage of Alabama Virtual School Bill

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HARTSELLE, Ala. (WHNT) - The Alabama Virtual Schools Bill would take distance learning from an option, to a requirement in all public schools in the state by fall 2016. It's not law yet, but 32 of 35 state senators have signed off on the proposed legislation.

Hartselle City Schools are among several area districts like Florence and Decatur, already getting their ducks in a row ahead of expected passage of House Bill 107 and its companion legislation.

"Virtual schools is just the next step -- it's certainly not for everybody, though," admits Hartselle City Schools Superintendent Vic Wilson. "It's something that a lot of conversation has to go in on both ends; parents, student and the school personnel on how we're going to work this; what's it going to look like?"

Wilson touts sheer flexibility as one of the greatest advantages to the virtual or blended learning model.

"This can be utilized for children if they want to get ahead; it can be used for kids who just want to take class that they couldn't otherwise it in their schedule; and it can be utilized for kids who need remediation -- so, it's going to run the gamut," Wilson explains.

Virtual school opposition mostly centers around the idea that out-of-state corporate entities contracted by local districts would be left to deliver learning modules and coursework. Wilson plans to address some of those concerns or misconceptions with parents at an upcoming town hall meeting.

"The beauty of the Hartselle Virtual Academy is that it's going to be our content. It's going to meet the College and Career Ready Standards delivered by Hartselle City School employees," Wilson says. "We're going to have people in place where the kids know that they have an opportunity to come in and talk if they need to, they can come and meet with our instructors; it's going to provide as many stopgaps in case something goes wrong with it."

Wilson and nearly all his counterparts maintain the effort is a positive for the entire state.

"I applaud school choice," the superintendent says. You want to have choices within your schools but I think it's a conversation that people need to have with the leaders in their communities and schools to say, 'what can you provide for us?'"

There will be an open house next week to showcase plans for the new Hartselle Virtual Academy. That meeting is Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the high school's lecture hall.