Under the Dome

Two apply to run virtual public charter schools

The legislature ordered two virtual charter schools be approved for pilot programs beginning next year. The State Board of Education put out the call for applicants and got two responses.

The North Carolina Virtual Academy, which would contract with the for-profit company K12, and North Carolina Connections Academy applied.

Like traditional charters, the virtual charters would be public schools using taxpayer money to educate students. But class work would be done online.

K12 has tried to get a foothold in the state for years. NC Learns, a nonprofit that would have used K12’s curriculum, had a lawsuit to force the state to let it operate. K12 has been controversial other states.

The Tennessee Education Commissioner ordered the Tennessee Virtual Academy run by K12 to close next year because of low student growth.

North Carolina Connections Academy has tried to gain approval through the traditional State Board process. The board rejected its application this year, but there was some talk among members that it might make sense for the Connections Academy to apply as a pilot project.

An education consultant with the charter school office in the state Department of Public Instruction, said the board would still go through its applicant reviews even though there are only two applicants.

The board is scheduled to talk about the applicants in December and vote in January. The approved schools are scheduled to open in August.