Pike County BOE seeks land for virtual high

Published 3:00 am Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Pike County Schools could have a new virtual high school facility within the next two years.

Dr. Mark Bazzell, superintendent, said the district has been in negotiations for six months to purchase existing property to house the operations of its virtual high school and administrative functions for the district’s numerous academies.

“That looks like we’re not going to be able to make that purchase happen, so we’re going to move ahead with a purchase of property and construction of a new facility,” he said this week. “The board has authorized me to move forward with an effort to locate property where we can build our own facility.”

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Bazzell said the district plans to create a hub for its growing academies and computer-based course offerings.

“We want to bring the administration of all our academies under one roof,” h said.

That includes the Business and Finance Academy, located at Pike County High School; the Ag Academy at Goshen High School; the First in Flight and Leadership Academy; the Global Studies Academy; and the Performing Arts Academy.

The academies allow participating students the opportunity to earn college credit – in some cases an associate’s degree – while completing their high school course requirements. More than 60 students currently participate in the academes, “The majority of the students in those academies will continue to take classes where they are, but we will move the administrative functions of the academies under one roof in the new facility,” he said.

Moreover, the district expects to expand the academy offerings in upcoming years and will need additional administrative space.

“We look forward this year to expanding the academy offerings,” he said. “We are working with Troy University to possibly add an exercise science academy and a pre-law academy.”

The new facility also will house the computer labs necessary for the district’s dual enrollment programs. These “virtual high school” programs allow students to take both college and high school courses. “Somewhere between 80 and 85 students take dual enrollment classes,” Bazzell said.

“All of those programs require a virtual component to connect with the post-secondary partners,” he said.

In addition, the new facility will allow the district to bring its STEM programs into one facility.

“We have an upper elementary STEM program that works with fifth- and sixth-graders who have shown an interest in math and science,” Bazzell said, adding the students participate in the program about half of the day before returning to their regular classrooms. “We’d like to expand to include a seventh- and eighth-grade STEM program … it’s an opportunity for us to get those kids who have shown an interest in math and science the accelerated learning opportunities.”

Currently, the STEM program and credit recovery program are being offered through the career tech center, and Bazzell said moving those to a new virtual high school center will create economies of scale.

“We envision having a 7,000 to 12,000 square foot facility, with classrooms, offices, laboratories for science programs and computer labs,” he said. “We want it to be a state-of-the-art facility.”

He estimates more than 200 students will pass through the facility during the course of an average school day.

“Our goal is to try and have it ready for the fall of the 2017-2018 school year,” Bazzell said.