Educators discuss virtual schools at Natick forum

Local education leaders Thursday received a primer on the state’s new virtual school initiative as representatives from the nonprofit VHS Collaborative discussed ways to expand districts' on-line education.

Jeffrey Elliott, CEO of the Maynard-based VHS Collaborative, told representatives from several districts gathered at Natick High School they need to plan for "this new world where students have a lot more options for online learning."

The collaborative runs online courses and teacher professional development. It works with districts to help them supplement traditional classroom instruction with online education.

Gov Deval Patrick last month signed legislation allowing for up to 10 virtual schools in the Bay State whose full-time student enrollments collectively cannot exceed 2 percent of the state’s public school enrollment. Under the legislation, the number of virtual schools will increase gradually over the coming years.The law takes effect with the 2013-2014 school year.

Preference will be given to virtual school proposals that include support for students who have physical challenges that make it difficult to attend school, have dropped out of school, live in rural communities or are gifted and talented, among other categories, presenters said Thursday.

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