Growth forecast for homeschool

January 15, 2003 11:00 pm

By CLAIRE ST. JOHN

Jamestown Elementary School District trustees on Wednesday finally got to meet Bernie Hanlon, the superintendent of California Virtual Academy.

Until now, they had only ever talked to Hanlon on the phone — even during the process of adopting the program.

The charter school program, which began for Jamestown this school year, serves 27 homeschooled students.

However, outgoing Superintendent Marty Minners told Hanlon he expects the charter school's numbers to rise significantly next year, because the school can serve counties contiguous to Tuolumne — making the potential student body enormous.

The California Virtual Academy is operated by K12, a 4-year-old Pennsylvania-based corporation that starts charter schools nationwide under the direction of William Bennett, former U.S. secretary of education.

K12 sends participating families all the equipment they need to homeschool their children, from a computer to access the on-line curriculum to construction paper and pencils for the wide variety of parent-led activities and lessons.

Statewide, K12 serves 900 students from San Diego to Jamestown.

Jamestown trustees expected more than 50 students to use the charter school, but Hanlon said lower enrollment is fine for K12 right now, because growth in the year-old California program has been so rapid.

The school district doesn't make much money from children enrolled in K12. State average daily attendance (ADA) funds go to K12 for the charter school, except for 1 percent, which goes to the school district for sponsoring the program.

But Jamestown School officials are happy to be able to offer the K12 program to parents who are already homeschooling, partly because their in-class students also benefit.

Jamestown is the only district in the county that will be able to also use K12's curriculum in its classrooms. The company has offered the school 10 computer stations with the curriculum for use in regular classes.