To learn remotely next fall, Indianapolis Public School students must enroll in charter school

A student wearing headphones works on a laptop computer during a special education classroom exercise.
The Indianapolis Public Schools board approved two local charter school partnerships to offer remote learning next school year. A student works on a laptop computer during a special education classroom exercise. (Nathan W. Armes for Chalkbeat)

The board of Indianapolis Public Schools approved two local charter school partnerships Thursday to offer remote learning to district students next school year. 

The board voted 5 to 1 to approve a five-year agreement that will require students wanting to learn remotely to transfer to Phalen Virtual Leadership Academy or Paramount Online Academy. Together the two charter schools will provide just over 3,000 spaces for students learning from home.  

Board member Susan Collins dissented and member Taria Slack was absent.

The two schools will receive per-pupil state funding plus $500 per student from IPS to cover technology and facilities costs. The district will oversee both schools to check if they are meeting district standards. 

Teachers at both schools will provide daily real-time instruction while students attend via electronic devices.

Collins said that students do not learn as well virtually as they do in person and that virtual schools in the state have closed or been tainted with scandal. 

“Learning virtually for most students is isolating and not engaging,” she said. “I cannot endorse a risky plan for our students.” 

Other Indianapolis school districts have released remote learning plans for the fall. Some districts will centralize virtual instruction, rather than having school-site teachers handle both in-person and remote students.  

Perry Township is the only district that has confirmed that it will not have a remote option for students in the upcoming school year. It released a statement that in-person learning is best for students, especially English learners. 

During a Tuesday board meeting, IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said teachers reported that instructing students virtually and in person at the same time, as the district currently requires teachers to do, was challenging. 

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Instead, next school year online students will have to leave their home school communities. While some school board members had qualms about the low performance of virtual schools in general, district officials said the two charter schools had solid records in previous years, before launching their virtual schools during the pandemic.

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