One of the better-kept secrets in Madison is that the school district currently offers more than 100 online courses for city high school students. The program is called the Madison Virtual Campus.
“It turns out Madison is a leader in this technology,” says Johnny Winston Jr., the school board president. “My first question was, ‘Why don’t people know about this?’” He thinks virtual schools could help keep students who might leave for other options.
“As the second-largest school district in the state, we should be leading the way,” Winston says. “And to find out that yeah, we’re already doing this but nobody knows about it, I’m like, c’mon, let’s make this happen.”
But officials have purposely kept the program under wraps as they’ve fine-tuned it. There’s no mention of the program on the district’s Web site, and most parents have never heard of it. The district has spent five years building infrastructure, training staff and convincing stakeholders of the growing demand for virtual learning.
“We’re close to crossing a threshold in this district,” says Kelly Pochop, the district’s online learning facilitator. “Keep your ears open. We’re actively exploring options with our administrative team.”
The big question is how fast the district wants its students to take advantage of the Madison Virtual Campus. Currently, only eight high school students are taking online courses for credit. Another 14 middle school students are taking an online geometry course through the Kiel school district, with a Madison teacher providing support, to meet demands by the local teachers union.