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home : premium content : news May 27, 2016

5/1/2013 1:14:00 PM
School District moving ahead with online school despite uncertainty
Ian Dunn

The Cascade School District is moving into phase two with regard to their online school partnership with the Columbia Virtual Academy. This past year, the district has offered online school through the CVA, enrolling nearly 100 students, most from out of the area.

As part of phase one of the program, the school district provided some support, but primarily it was the CVA that did the bulk of the work. Cascade Superintendent Steve McKenna said because of auditing restrictions and other requirements of the state, the district cannot remain in phase one.

"You have to move into full partnership, which means more benefits to us, more control, more coordination, more contact with our students, rather than relying on somebody on the end of a computer somewhere," McKenna said.

Plans are to hire one teacher, and maybe two, depending on enrollment. If the enrollment goes over 90 students, McKenna said they might hire two teachers. The teachers create a plan with the student and check with them frequently.

"This is going to take somebody completely into a new type of teaching than anybody in our district has experienced before," he said. "They could be working in the district office or the high school. All they need is a desk, computer and a phone."

Teachers will be talking to students over the phone and Skype. Typically, a teacher would have 70 to 90 students with whom they would check in with once a week to track the progress.

CVA would be involved in all the material purchasing and storage, he said. As the parent selects the curriculum, the CVA would send the materials. That aspect of the program has not changed.

All these plans are somewhat tentative, McKenna said, because legislature is making rule changes which could affect online schools. The Governor has proposed that students in an online school must attend in their own school district.

"Many of our students attending Columbia Virtual Academy are not within our school district. That would have a negative impact on the whole partnership program we have," he said. "It has been fiscally sound for us. We took a risk moving into year one. We're going to take another risk moving into level two. I am moving forward and posting the tentative job."

Technology Funding

In order to move quickly on installing technology in the district, the Cascade School Board is considering a loan from Cashmere Valley Bank. Voters approved $1.6 million technology levy for the district last year, but those funds only trickle in as property taxes are paid.

Last summer, the district took out a loan from Chelan County to get started on the technology work in the district, mainly purchasing new desktop computer systems. McKenna said the county provided some partial funding to make this happen.

"What we've discovered, by moving at a more rapid pace, we can get this work accomplished," he said. "We believe we can save money, and make changes, taking advantage of doing it in chunks rather than spread out over when the money comes in."

McKenna said Cashmere Valley Bank is offering an interest rate of 1.45 to 1.65 percent, which would allow the district to borrow the rest of the money needed, and save. The county was loaning the district money at 3 percent interest. This would provide savings of around $3,0000, McKenna said.

"They (CVB) know the money is coming in and it is guaranteed," he said. "The big thing is we don't have to go through all the hoops and bells because it is small, short term loan. We don't have to go through all the bond attorney work that typically has to be done."

The money will be spent on infrastructure, including a new phone system for the high school, along with wiring and wireless systems. Funds will also be used for classroom technology and staff development.

"It's going to save us a ton of money," McKenna said. "Originally, that is why we went with the county. I think there is no reason, because of the money we are going to save, to not take advantage of it."

Ian Dunn can be reached at 548-5286 or

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