Kiowa County schools are seeking students for the virtual school, 21st Century Learning Academy.

“If anybody is interested in exploring the opportunities in virtual education, they can contact our offices,” superintendent Darin Headrick said. “We’re open year round, so they can start anytime.”

In its fifth year in USD 442, the district took over the program when Mullinville consolidated. Around 16 district teachers are involved in the program.

“We have online curriculum in all subject areas and our students are one of two types,” Headrick said. “They can be charter students, who would be the age of a typical junior high or high school student. The other kind of student is an adult learner, who is anyone 19 years of age or older. For whatever reasons, they are trying to earn their high school diploma.”

The requirements for the virtual school are the students have to be a Kansas resident, not enrolled anywhere else and complete certain courses within the time limit.

“Our charter students take the same kind of courses a kid in traditional school would take,” he said. “They have the same testing requirements, and they take competency finals in all the subjects.”

He said the adult learner’s schedule is much more flexible.

“It’s not uncommon for us to have a 24-year-old single mom with three kids who is raising kids during the day and trying to work on a high school diploma at the same time,” he said. “Those students are able to get as much of their diploma accomplished as they have the time for.”

Last year’s enrollment headcount was around 250 with full time equivalency around 110. Typically 50 to 55 students graduate a year in the program.

“In our building we typically graduate somewhere between 20 and 30 kids every year,” Headrick said. “So the virtual school serves a lot of students who can’t attend a traditional school. Some kids complete a grade level a year, and some people only have to complete four credits to graduate.”

As well as increase enrollment, Headrick said the district also plans to improve curriculum, increase student services and ensure the program continues.

“Our purpose is to serve students in a nontraditional manner and enable them to obtain a high school diploma,” he said. “We want our curriculum to be able to evolve as the interest and demands of our graduates evolve. The virtual arena has really taken a financial hit from the state the last couple of years. Because it’s funded through the state, it’s harder and harder to maintain services and keep the doors open.”