Indiana virtual schools’ shoddy communication around its closures could force an earlier shutdown

As turmoil engulfs Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy, its oversight agency is moving to shut the schools sooner than planned.

The Daleville school board will consider Thursday night whether to speed up the closures of the two troubled virtual schools, which are accused of over-reporting enrollment and wrongly taking in millions of state dollars.

Daleville officials say that after negotiating a deal last month to begin shutting down, Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy failed to notify students and families that the schools would be closing in September and at the end of next year, respectively.

“People don’t know what’s going on, and they can’t get ahold of any information,” said Donna Petraits, a spokeswoman for Daleville schools. “There’s no communication.”

Virtual schools superintendent Percy Clark did not return a message seeking comment. Petraits said the schools did not adequately respond to several concerns raised by Daleville less than a month after they agreed to close.

If the Daleville school board votes to begin revoking the virtual schools’ charters again, the schools will have 15 days to respond in writing, according to the agreement they signed last month. The school board could decide within 30 days whether to shutter the schools at that time.

A closure could throw students and families into even more upheaval as they scramble to find schools at the last minute, since Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy had been slated to stay open this school year. Because many students choose virtual options after struggling in traditional brick-and-mortar schools, some families have said they worry about finding another school that fits their students’ needs.

But it’s unclear how functional Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy still are. The state has stopped funding the schools after the enrollment scandal, and some current and former employees have told Chalkbeat that the schools went through significant layoffs last week.

Some students and families were taken by surprise over the weekend by emails from teachers saying the schools had gone dark — and then by a follow-up email Monday from Clark saying the schools remain open. It was the first time that some families realized the schools’ troubles, throwing them into confusion over what to do next.

One major concern looms over student records. Teachers worry that without support staff to process paperwork, students will be unable to get their transcripts in order to transfer to new schools. The virtual schools were supposed to give Daleville access to student records, but Daleville contends that’s one of several required steps in the closure process that the schools failed to follow.

Daleville could pursue legal action to gain access to those records, Petraits said.

The Daleville school board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the boardroom of the superintendent’s office, 14300 W 2nd St.