New law makes it easier for families to enroll in virtual education
A new law, HB 1552, that went into effect on August 28 is making it much easier for Missouri students to enroll in full-time virtual education programs.
HB 1552 makes several changes to the state’s virtual education program, called the Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program or MOCAP.
The most important changes for families are:
- Families no longer need to get the approval of their resident district school to enroll in any of the 8 full-time virtual programs offered by MOCAP
- A student no longer needs to have been enrolled in a public school for at least a semester to qualify for the MOCAP program.
This means that any Missouri student, even those who have been homeschooled or attended a private school last year, who wants to enroll in a full-time virtual education program simply needs to make sure they are enrolled in their local school district and then notify that district of their decision to switch to virtual education.
How enrollment in full-time virtual education works now
For families wanting to enroll in a full-time virtual education program, the process has never been easier. Here are the steps you will go through in the enrollment process:
- Make sure you are enrolled in a local public charter or district school. The MOCAP program still requires participants to be enrolled in a Missouri public charter or district school before enrolling in a virtual education program. Before a family can start the process, they must make sure they are enrolled in public school, especially if they have been homeschooled or attended a private school previously.
- Choose one of the 8 full-time virtual education providers. Under the new law, families can choose from eight different virtual education providers, based on their child’s specific needs. Each of these providers have partnered with a Missouri school district or higher learning institution to provide their services to families in Missouri. These partners are called host districts.
- Notify the provider AND your local district of your decision to switch to a full-time virtual program. After you have chosen the best provider for your child’s needs, you need to notify your local district and the provider of your decision. This will start a process that will move your child from being enrolled in the local district to being enrolled in the host district that has partnered with the provider. Your local district should not be able to contest your decision unless the provider does not offer the courses needed for your child to graduate.
- Un-enroll from your local district and enroll with the provider through a host district. Your local district and/or virtual education provider will tell you how to unenroll from your local district and transfer your enrollment to the host district under the MOCAP program.
- Develop an ESP. The host district and your local district are required to develop an Educational Services Plan (ESP) for your student that will define how and if your child is able to use any of your local district’s resources while enrolled in the virtual education program.
Why all the enrolling and unenrolling?
HB 1552 was designed to remove barriers for families seeking virtual education options while also responding to concerns that district schools had expressed about accountability issues with virtual education providers.
The solution that was passed into law is to transfer virtual education students from being enrolled in a local school that had no control over the virtual program to a host district that takes all responsibility for student success in the virtual program.
This means that if you choose to enroll in a full-time virtual education program, your local district will no longer receive state funding for your child nor will your child’s performance on state assessments count toward your local district’s accreditation process.
Instead, state funding will be sent to the host district (who will then pay the virtual education provider for their services) and the host district will include your child’s performance on state tests in their accreditation process.
What about sports, prom, and other activities?
While the enrollment compromise clears a lot of red tape and potential denials for families seeking to enroll their children in full-time virtual education, it does have some potential downsides when it comes to participating in clubs and activities at your local school.
Because the new law requires you to switch enrollment to the host district, your child will no longer be considered a student in your local district.
This means that there is no requirement for the local district to allow your child to participate in clubs, social activities, or sporting events.
While participation in local level clubs like FBLA or FFA may be allowed based on how the host district and local district structure your child’s ESP, the local district is not required to permit such participation.
Participation in state-level activities including sports and academic competitions is governed by the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA)’s by-laws and will have to be addressed through MSHSSA and NOT through either the local or host district.
For social activities like prom or homecoming dances, your student will likely be considered an outside student and not be allowed to participate unless invited by a local district student.
Under the law, your child will receive their high school diploma from the HOST district, not your local district, and so graduation options and participation will be provided by the host district.
Who are the 8 providers and where are their host districts located?
Eight different full-time virtual education programs are available through the MOCAP program. Some are national virtual education providers who have partnered with public school districts to offer their programs to Missouri students while others are homegrown programs developed by Missouri school districts and only offered in Missouri.
These providers include (descriptions were originally written by the providers):
- Missouri Virtual Academy (MOVA), a program of Grandview R-II School District, offers a personalized approach to education that removes barriers to learning and meets students where they are. As pioneers in online learning, MOVA (powered by national provider Stride) have helped develop a new model of learning that allows kindergarten through high school students to move beyond the physical walls of the classroom. Their various education offerings include career readiness programs, support services, and flexible programming to meet the needs of students and families. Missouri Virtual Academy (MOVA) courses, live class sessions, multiple socialization opportunities, and overall school programs are designed to help every student—regardless of geographic, socioeconomic, or academic circumstance—achieve better outcomes through a personalized approach.
- Connections Academy (MOCAS), a program of Sturgeon R-V School District, is a K-12 online public school option available for students throughout Missouri. It’s also a tight-knit school community focused on creating a well-rounded student experience. With the support of certified teachers, students learn from home using a curriculum that meets rigorous state education standards. Parent involvement and scheduling flexibility helps ensure students’ individual needs are met, so they can thrive academically and emotionally.
- Missouri Digital Academy (MODA), a program of Laquey R-V School District, offers a personalized approach to education that removes barriers to learning and meets students where they are. As pioneers in online learning, MODA (powered by national provider Stride) have helped develop a new model of learning that allows kindergarten through high school students to move beyond the physical walls of the classroom. Their various education offerings include career readiness programs, support services, and flexible programming to meet the needs of students and families. MODA courses, live class sessions, multiple socialization opportunities, and overall school programs are designed to help every student—regardless of geographic, socioeconomic, or academic circumstance—achieve better outcomes through a personalized approach.
- Mizzou Academy, the parent program of the University of Missouri High School, is a part of the University of Missouri’s College of Education. As the precollegiate space within the University, they trace thier roots back to 1857 as a lab school, evolving through Extension in 1913 to offer correspondence courses for high school credit to students without access to education. In 1999, they became an accredited private K-12 school to offer diplomas to graduating seniors.
- Launch, a program of the Springfield School District, is Missouri’s solution for course access issues for school districts and families in need of flexible and personalized learning options. Launch courses meet both individual student needs and the needs of districts seeking to provide virtual course options for their students.
- At Home Virtual Program, a program of the Mehlville School District, is a virtual program offering a traditional education on a traditional schedule taught by highly qualified, certified teachers to learners who prefer to engage in a virtual setting. they seek to forge strong, positive connections with and between their students so they can achieve independence, build confidence while gaining academic knowledge.
- SJSD Virtual Academy, a program of the St. Joseph School District, is a fully online K-12 education option for students who wish to complete some or all of their classes in a teacher-supported online environment. Their teachers and staff are here to assist families and students with their academic, social, and emotional needs. They’re excited to serve our students, community and state by offering innovative educational experiences and by continuing to learn and grow alongside our students.
- R7 Online Academy, a program of the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, offers an elementary virtual learning option to Missouri students. Their program balances real-time and self-paced learning with Lee’s Summit teachers in grades Kindergarten through 6.