Parents and students question two Indiana virtual schools following closure emails

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – There’s confusion over the future of two Indiana online charter schools after a teacher sent an email advising students to stop sending in assignments.

One mom reached out to FOX59 for help, because she now feels left in the dark.

“How do you just suddenly close like that?” asked the concerned mother, who wants to stay anonymous due to the developing situation.

This mother says she’s upset and scared as her daughters education is on the line.

“Everything has been going great since then, up until Saturday, July 20,” explained the mother. “We were actually in the library doing work as we usually do, and I received an email from one of her teachers.”

Here’s some of what the email said. It stated how unfortunate that this is, and that the teacher is proud of the students.

“Yesterday I learned that our schools were closed. Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Pathways Academy no longer have any employees, and the office doors have been locked. This happened suddenly and has caught everyone by surprise. If you are currently submitting work for a class, I would advise you to stop. Edmentum may still be up and running, but most teachers have stopped grading work. It would be misleading students since there is no one in the office to record the credits to your transcript. I cannot imagine how disappointing that is to read.”

The two online schools are under investigation by state auditors for allegedly inflating enrollment numbers and owing the state millions of dollars. The State Examiner says both schools “substantially misreported” after reviewing the audit report. As of July 10, Indiana Virtual School was cut off from state funding, which is all new information for some parents.

“Why weren’t any parents notified of the what ifs or what could be so at that point we could decide what we wanted to do,” said the mother.

Indiana Virtual School Superintendent, Dr. Percy Clark is clarifying the confusion.

“We would like to clear up some confusion regarding the status of our schools. Contrary to a recent, inaccurate post on our social media pages, Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy ARE CURRENTLY OPEN. All courses are available to students. By a prior agreement, Indiana Virtual School will close on September 30, 2019, and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy will close on September 30, 2020. Until those dates, we encourage students to continue to take advantage of our award-winning curriculum, ask questions of our dedicated teachers, and develop their academic excellence.”

“I don’t trust it. I don’t trust it what so ever,” said the mother.

Daleville Community Schools, located near Anderson is the district that oversees the two virtual schools. As the authorizer, they receive three percent of the state funding. The district released a statement following the confusion as well.

"Daleville Schools immediately reached out to charter school officials after receiving a number of inquiries from parents, students, and staff regarding the status of operations of the Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy. Concerns were a result of an email communication over the weekend from a person associated with the charter schools who stated the schools had ceased operations. Daleville was informed by charter school Superintendent Percy Clark that IVS/IVPA are not closed and are currently operating. Any further inquiries should be directed to IVS/IVPA."

Daleville also issued a notice of special session to take place on Thursday, July 25, to immediately vote to revoke the charter of both schools for noncompliance.

DCS currently has no access to any of the student records for either virtual school, however, DCS is in communication with the Indiana Department of Education and is pursuing legal avenues to require the schools to make student records available to parents.

In the interim, students should be permitted to enroll in their local school district without a transcript and later supply a transcript or evidence of completed coursework when those become available. That evidence could include screenshots of student courses showing the current grades and progress in the course. The Indiana Department of Education will be sending out guidance to public school district superintendents and school principals regarding virtual school students who are unable to access their educational records tomorrow. Students are urged to contact the school to which they wish to transfer for further information.

James Betley is the Executive Director of the Indiana Charter School Board. He says there’s a law in place to prevent this from happening.

“It’s basically a list of steps you take when you close a school,” said Betley. “The one thing that the statute specifically calls out is notifying parents.”

Under the protocol, normally, a closing online charter would transition a student’s records to their new school. But the concerned mother we spoke with says right now she can’t get ahold of her daughter’s transcripts, which could impact the start of her sophomore year in just a few days.

“The students need their credits so they can move on and we have the option to do what we need to do for our children,” said the mother.

“But ultimately it’s the schools’ responsibility. They have all of the records,” said Betley.

Betley says if parents still feel uncertain, they should begin looking for other options.

“The majority of the charter operators and authorizers in the state put kids first and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of anything like this happening,” said Betley. “I know the schools that we authorize would happily take any of these kids and if the transcript comes later, the transcript comes later.”

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