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State Network Lets Schools Share Online Courses

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During the pandemic, the Public Education Department required school districts to offer online learning options, but that won’t be the case this coming school year. Still, some students may prefer it. On Wednesday, the state launched a program to expand access to online classes in districts with limited resources. 

The Virtual Course Consortium allows school districts and charter schools that don’t offer remote learning to partner with those that do.

Deputy Secretary of Teaching, Learning and Assessment at the Public Education Department, Gwen Perea Warniment, spoke about the program’s launch at the New Mexico Coalition of Education Leaders conference Wednesday.

“We have several districts and charter schools that already have virtual programs,” she said. “So, how might we create a network by which they support other districts and other schools?” 

Here’s how it will work: A student who wants remote learning that’s unavailable in their school or district can take virtual courses at another district, as long as both are members of the consortium, which is free to join. The student’s district pays the one hosting the virtual classes $375 for each course the student takes.

Consortium members who have a student taking online classes elsewhere will continue to receive the state funds they get for each of their students and will provide them resources like counseling and meals. 

Perea Warniment says virtual students will also be able to take consortium classes their school doesn’t offer.

“The idea is, as it grows, it becomes very supportive to open access to a variety of courses,” she said, “and very beneficial to some of our rural districts.”

The Public Education Department provided $2.5  million for schools willing to build out their online options to help get the network started. There are currently seven schools listed on the consortium’s directory

Families can ask their district’s superintendent or charter school leader about participating in the consortium. There is no deadline to join.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.