Cordele Dispatch, Cordele, GA

Local news

July 17, 2013

BOE expected to add virtual option

Abbeville — At its regular meeting next Tuesday, the Wilcox Board of Education is expected to partner with United Marketing Associates (UMA) to provide an online option for all students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Should a student choose to complete his course work at any grade level through UMA, he could work at home or wherever he had internet access, still be counted as a full-time student in the Wilcox County school system and go to the school only for standardized testing and any extracurricular activities in which he wanted to participate.

For those students who don’t have internet access at home, the school system could offer a computer lab where students in the UMA program would remain throughout the school day.

According to the proposal, Assistant Superintendent Julie Childers said students could choose a self-directed program in which they work completely on their own or they could select a plan in which they interact electronically with a teacher.

While students currently enrolled in the public school system would be able to take advantage of the virtual program, the real goal of this partnership, Superintendent Steve Smith said, is to entice students presently attending private schools or being home-schooled to enroll in the program. They would then be counted when the state appropriates money for the school system based on its FTE (full-time equivalency).

Also with the UMA program, students who need a course that Wilcox County does not offer such as Spanish III would be able to take that course online. School systems already are required to offer online courses, and Wilcox high school students do have several options. UMA is the first, however, to offer online classes throughout the spectrum from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Board members also plan to allow a company called Redflex Guardian to place cameras on the stop arms of several buses. These cameras can be used to prosecute people who disobey the stop signs when a bus stops to let a student embark or disembark.

Smith said violations of the school bus stop law are rare in Wilcox County, and he’s not sure the cameras are needed, but Redflex wants to try them on a few buses at no cost to the school system. The cameras will send a message that violators will be ticketed, he said.

Finally, Childers will recommend that the board contract with Transfinder to evaluate the system’s current bus routes and determine if some need to be changed to be more efficient.

For 12 months support and the use of GPS devices in several of the buses, Childers said the cost is $4,995. If Wilcox County decides to continue the program, the annual cost will be $2,750. “We’d like to know if there’s a better way to do our bus routes,” Childers explained. Currently, the state says Wilcox County needs 17 buses, and the county has 18 on the road.

Board member William Dozier said at this past Tuesday’s work session, “I think it would be worthwhile to know if we are making the best use of our buses.”

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