May 13, 2009

Virtual schools an alternative for Racine Unified students

Virtual schools are becoming a legitimate alternative to Racine Unified's public schools, according to open enrollment applications.

Racine Unified reported district residents submitted 921 applications to attend other school districts around the state, according to district numbers. In all, 38 percent of the applications - 352 total - went to free virtual academies that replace traditional schools with online classes.

Sixty-eight Racine Unified students applied to attend Waukesha's iQ Academy, an online public school for students in grades six to 12. Along with free tuition and state-certified teachers, students can even receive a computer to participate in the program.

Similar models exist around the state - and Racine Unified students appear to be interested. Sixty-seven students applied to McFarland's online K-12 school, the Wisconsin Virtual Academy, 63 applied for Appleton's Wisconsin Connections Academy, 61 applied to Ozaukee's Wisconsin Virtual Academy, 46 applied to Grantsburg's Insight School of Wisconsin, 28 applied to Kenosha's eSchool, nine to Monroe's Virtual School, four to Janesville's eSchool, two to Kiel's eSchool and one to Cambridge's eSchool.

The success of online academies is likely what has Racine Unified Superintendent James Shaw thinking creating Racine's own online academy for the 2010-11 school year.

While interest in virtual schools appears to be growing, most residents interested in leaving Unified applied to traditional schools.

Here's a breakdown of where students applied:

Yorkville - 109
Union Grove Elementary - 97
Oak Creek - 96
Union Grove High School - 77
Raymond - 76
Kenosha - 47
Franklin - 9
South Milwaukee - 7
Milwaukee Public - 7
Waterford Elementary - 6
Burlington - 5
Greendale - 5
Kohler - 4
Paris - 3
Muskego-Norway - 3
North Cape - 2
Waterford High School - 2
Wilmot High School - 2
Cudahy - 2
Wausau - 1
Whitnall - 1
Wilmot Grade School - 1
St. Francis - 1
Pewaukee - 1
Kickapoo - 1
Greenfield - 1
Elkhorn - 1
Dover - 1
Central/Westosha - 1

Racine Unified also had 26 applications from residents of other districts interested in sending students to Racine's public schools. Here's the breakdown of where the applications came from:

Kenosha - 15
Milwaukee Public - 3
Oak Creek - 2
West Allis - 2
Central/Westosha High School - 1
Norway - 1
Palmyra-Eagle - 1
South Milwaukee - 1

One note on the numbers: The 921 applications do not represent 921 students looking to leave Unified. Each student can file three open enrollment applications. It also doesn't mean the students are leaving. They have to be accepted by the school and then make the decision to actually attend the school. It's safe to say fewer than 300 students will leave Racine Unified through open enrollment next year.


  1. It is really about time they look at having our own virtual school available. We should be leading and not so far behind.

  2. Kenosha is looking to ADD a principal to there eschool at $80,00-$100,00/year --more staff and benny's --can we afford this ??

  3. Heather in Caledonia5/13/2009 3:35 PM

    I'm excited - I was hoping Racine would do this. I'll give them a few years to work out the kinks, but I will probably transfer my son from WIVA to Racine if they have a good program.

  4. I am concerned about virtual schooling. Who is monitoring their progress and attendance.There is not a lot of regulation on home schooling. I can see parents taking their student out of school and saying they are on virtual school to get out of the schools eye on truancy.

    Also, we need to look at the amount of money that goes to the schools that accept the open enrollment student. (I think it is about $6000-$8000 a child.) I would like to also see a break down of special education students that open enroll out of RUSD to a better program.

    Lastly, how many parents are pulling their students out for private schools. That is more money that RUSD is not getting.

  5. Heather in Caledonia5/13/2009 4:25 PM

    The attendance is tracked through an online system. We track ours daily by entering our time spent on each activity. Interaction on the computer is needed for about 50% of what we do (my son's in Kindergarten), so if that is not completed, the teachers know. There are also online, interactive classes where teachers speak with the students - these are required.

    RUSD still gets some money for my son even though he does not occupy a seat in a room, use facilities or employ an RUSD teacher. I plan on virtual schooling as long as I can remain at home with by kids. RUSD schools appear to dangerous, disruptive and unable to teach what needs to be learned. I would gladly send him to St. Rita's (it's close and I know children who have done well there) but we can't afford it. RUSD needs to get their act together if they want more students. Unfortunately, I still pay money to this district even though their services are poor.

  6. "RUSD still gets some money for my son even though he does not occupy a seat in a room, use facilities or employ an RUSD teacher"
    Really? How does this work?

  7. Heather in Caledonia5/14/2009 2:21 PM

    It's been over a year since I heard all of the details on this, but as far as I remember, the resident school district still receives a percentage of the cost for each student. I remember Lehman wanted to put a cap on the amount that the "transfer-in" district received (I think it was about $3000) as some receive around $5,000 or so for each student. I did a quick search online and I couldn't find the amount kept by the home district - sorry. I know I read about it last year.

    Why would it be a problem, though, for that $5000 to go to the "transfer-in" school? We're not talking about a lot of students, here. There is a VERY small percentage that would ever consider virtual schooling. Why not let those who do it well receive the money? It is so easy to transfer between virtual schools that I think it provides for a good, competitive environment in education.

  8. I heard Unified gets what is left over. Each student in Racine is worth 12K. 6K goes to virtual school, 6K to unified for nothing. All virtual students are required to take state testing. The students take those tests alone and the scores speak for themselves. Virtual schools are flexible and the future of education. I think the perfect school would balance a teacher in a classroom part time with the curriculum of the virtual schools at home part time.

  9. Heather in Caledonia5/15/2009 7:18 AM

    I agree! I think the best setup for us would be for him to attend a physical school environment for hands-on things like Music, Art, Phy Ed and some Science. I think he learns Reading, Math, History and Science better when we can sit down and work on it quietly one-on-one. Part-time in school would be fine with me as long as the school was safe and effective.

  10. I think with the money we are spending to send our children to public school could be used in a much better way. I will be enrolling my children again in online schools. my children learned so much in public school, I ended up with one in rehab, with a drug and drinking problem. Another that never went to school and no one cared. She actualy passed every one of her classes with B's and yet never showed up for class. For crying out load the high school kids dont even have text books.