Virtual Academy in Greenfield seeks new content provider

Virtual Academy in Greenfield seeks new content provider

By ANITA FRITZ

Recorder Staff

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

(Published in print: Thursday, December 17, 2015)

GREENFIELD — The Massachusetts Virtual Academy is looking at its options as its contract with Virginia-based K12 Inc. curriculum provider expires in June 2016.

Carl Tillona, executive director of the Greenfield-based virtual school, said MAVA received three proposals after issuing a request for proposals last month.

K12 was one of them, and Connections Academy and Edgenuity were the other two, said Tillona.

“We’re going to choose what’s best for our students,” said Tillona. “We want the absolute best curriculum for our students.”

The first diploma-granting virtual school in the state has a current enrollment of 651 students. Tillona said that includes 19 students from Greenfield. Local school districts pay $6,700 per student per year for those who choose the virtual route with MAVA.

Tillona said the virtual school, which teaches students across the state via the Internet, serves many different types of students, including those with medical problems, athletes who have to train during the day, and students who find brick-and-mortar schools are not a good fit for them.

In 2010, Greenfield School Committee voted to open the state’s first virtual school, but that same committee vote 7-0 unanimously to shut it down in 2013.

The virtual school, which is a public school controlled by the state and structured like a charter school, opened shortly after, changing its name to Massachusetts Virtual Academy, which is headquartered in Greenfield.

“There are a lot of great curriculum providers for virtual schools now, a lot more than when MAVA first selected K12,” said Tillona.

He said the contract that is expiring was for three years. He said he believes the next contract will be for one year with an option to extend it.

“We want to have the best curriculum alongside the best teachers in Massachusetts,” said Tillona. “To do that, we need to explore all of our options.”

The virtual academy currently takes an active role in all of the teacher hiring and training, and also in the curriculum choices that K12 provides, said Tillona.

The virtual school intends to continue those practices to ensure that its instructors, teaching materials and techniques meet and exceed state standards, he said.

Tillona said can’t be sure what, if any, changes there will be, because a provider has not been chosen, yet.

“We’ll have to see,” he said. “We could choose K12, or we could choose someone else. We could choose two providers. We just don’t know, yet.”

In October 2014, the Massachusetts Board of Secondary and Elementary Education placed the virtual school on a 20-month probation, after the department raised concerns about its academic programs and compliance with regulatory requirements. That probation will end in June 2016 — at the same time its new contract will begin.

Tillona said the virtual academy has worked hard to provide the best education possible to its students.

For more information about Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield, visit www.mava.k12.com.

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