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    News > In the Headlines

    Home-based online schooling ripped


    By Kendrick Marshall

    Chicago Sun-Times

    A new Chicago Public Schools charter that would educate students online from home is illegal, the Chicago Teachers Union said Thursday, threatening a court challenge to the school, which has yet to receive state approval.

    "This is not the answer for our students," teachers union President Marilyn Stewart said at a press conference Thursday at the union's Merchandise Mart headquarters. "This school is a step back in education reform."

    The Chicago Virtual Academy was approved by the School Board in January and plans to enroll 600 K-8 students this fall.

    However, as a charter school, it must receive state approval and Illinois State Board of Education officials said they have yet to receive its application.

    Malon Edwards, CPS spokesman, said the application from the school operators arrived in March and was sent to the state this week. He could not explain the delay, but said it shouldn't affect the timetable for state approval.

    Hindered socially, academically?

    State Board officials will try to rule before the school year starts, a state board spokesman said.

    The union contends the online setting would violate a state school code that mandates "non-home based'' charter schools. Virtual Academy president Sharon Hayes denied the program would be "home schooling children'' since they would learn in the classroom as well.

    The planned school would enroll students citywide and serve physically disabled and gifted students or those from underperforming schools as part of the city's Renaissance 2010 initiative. Students would work primarily from home with the help of a parent or another responsible adult.

    One of the union's biggest concerns is that students would be hindered socially and academically.

    According to Hayes, students will spend 25 percent of their time online with laptops and materials provided by the school, the rest of the time they will complete workbook exercises and hands-on activities as well as interact with a state-certified teacher and other students once a week at a downtown learning center.

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