Four online schools in the state of Nevada are currently under scrutiny by the Nevada Public Charter School Authority due to persistently low graduation rates.
While a tie vote pushed the issue off the agenda for Friday's meeting, it has been set aside to be discussed at a later, unknown point in time.
Dozens of parents and students were in attendance at the hearing to voice their concerns over the idea that four of the ten virtual K-12 schools in the state could be shut down, including The Nevada Virtual Academy, Nevada Connections Academy and Beacon Academy.
Kelly Gaez was one parent to speak up at the meeting during public comment. Her son attends a virtual school in the 5th grade. Gaez said the setup was the best option for her son due to the challenges that arise as a result of his Aspergers Syndrome, a type of autism that affects social interaction and non-verbal communication, but typically does not have any affect over intelligence levels. She said that the online school offers her son the ability to control his own environment.
"I just don't know what I'm going to do if that choice is taken away — what's a good fit for him? Is he going to have to be put in a special education classroom at middle school? That's not going to be stimulating enough for him," Gaez said.
A PR team with the Nevada Connections Academy stated that close to one-third of the students who attend the four schools threatened with closing are special needs students with IEPs.
Parent Tina Zabalza discussed the issue of bullying in public schools, saying her son had been attacked on his way home from school, causing his jaw to be broken in several places. The event caused her to take him out of Spring Valley High School and enroll him in an online school.
If it happens, over 6,000 students, many of whom have health concerns, bullying issues, or developmental challenges, could face academic uncertainty. In the 2013-14 school year, close to 10,000 students were enrolled in online schools in the state.
Around 75-80% of those students are located in southern Nevada. While asking those students to return to the public school system would only account for a small percentage of students overall, it could contribute to larger classroom sizes, many of which are already in danger of overcrowding, as well as the teacher shortage that is currently affecting the Clark County School District, reports Marissa Kynaston for KTNV.
While the state claims the schools are consistently under-performing, school leadership has argued that more time is needed in order to make improvements on student progress and for a proper response to be issued to the claims of poor performance, reports Nathan O'Neal for News3 Las Vegas.
In the end, the seven-hour hearing resulted in a tie vote, forcing the board to remove the issue from the agenda. It was made clear that it could still be brought back up at a later date. Doing so offered additional time to schools to work with the state in order to improve student performance.