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story.lead_photo.caption Blair Oaks High School in Wardsville

Blair Oaks is welcoming a new virtual course option for students. Launch, the Springfield Public Schools-based program, will give access to courses within the district. Blair Oaks R-2 School District's Board of Education unanimously approved to allow students to use the program at Tuesday night's board meeting.

Launch offers courses in mathematics, social studies, science, advance placement courses and more for sixth through 12th grades, according to the Launch website. Summer academies are available students from first through 12th grades. Courses are developed using Missouri Learning Standards.

Approximately 227 Missouri school districts participate in the program, Blair Oaks Superintendent Jim Jones said.

"It's actually virtual school," Jones said. "(Students) do have to work through our counseling department, but (they) have the opportunity to do (their) entire education virtually."

The district would initially pay approximately $2,000 for a membership, Jones said. Additional fees would depend on the amount of course work done by students.

Courses are $255 per half credit, according to the Launch website.

Students could take the classes from home, offering flexibility in completing work. The district currently offers another virtual option; however, Jones was unable to identify the program, he said.

High school Principal Melinda Aholt did a lot of the research and recommended the program, Jones said.

School districts receive 96 percent attendance for students who use the virtual course option, he said.

"Virtual schools generate (average daily attendance)," Jones said. "State and local funds will be used to pay for courses. We feel this one is going to provide the district with the biggest amount of flexibility to meet the (Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program)."

MOCAP courses are in compliance with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, according to the website.

Surrounding districts who use the program include Cole County R-1 Russellville and Cole County R-5 Eugene, Jones said.

Courses will require effort from those taking courses, middle school Principal Kimberley Walters said.

"It's not really designed to be successful for students that are not motivated," Walters said. "So we may find that some who think, 'I just don't want to go to school so I'm going to do this,' aren't going to be as successful."

In other business, the school board approved the 2019-20 school bus routes. This year, the district is running 13 morning routes and 16 evening routes, Jones said.

A second lift bus was added to the routes to offer wheelchair assistance, Jones said. An additional bus was also added to take students to Nichols Career Center.

The district has five-year bus contracts with D&K Bus Service and Durham School Services. The contracts are set to expire in May 2020, Jones said.

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