After 12 years, the Missouri Virtual School will close for good this week.
The program offered distance classes for rural Missouri high schools. It taught classes like Spanish, Physics, and Chemistry, that schools couldn’t offer otherwise, through a videoconference piped into the schools.
“Courses that the school either could not find a teacher for, or because they have such low enrollment it’s cheaper to go ahead and hire us,” said Director Becky Baker.
Baker was one of the founders of the Missouri Virtual School, launched with a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education grant in 1998. It eventually became a Missouri State University program, and MSU has now decided to pull the funding.
“Unfortunately, I’m going to be real upfront, we did run into a deficit… It costs to do what we do because we do it as an individual service to the schools,” Baker said.
The program was hundreds of thousands of dollars in the red.
“We were still charging a very low fee, and it just wasn’t paying because we were doing so many low enrollment classes. For example, at one school I had two students, that’s it,” Baker said.
Baker says the program has served more than 100 schools and 3,000 students over the last 12 years, and some students have even gone on to Ivy League schools. She’s very disappointed to see the program she founded with two of her colleagues fall to the wayside.
“Both of those gentlemen, one of them died last year, the other one died last year. On top of everything else, seeing something that we all started, basically it’s just like a child that’s no longer here. We’ve nursed this thing for 12 years. So it’s been very difficult and I have teachers that I’m obviously having to let go,” Baker said.
Baker has recommended the rural schools that will be losing her services to use a similar program offered out of Arkansas. She’s confident that program serves the same goals her program did.
“Listening to their teachers, the passion that comes out in their voices is the same passion that comes out in my teacher’s voices,” Baker said.
She says the people running the program have Arkansas have assured her they will get their teachers certified in Missouri, and will offer courses at a similar subscription rate to what Missouri Virtual School charged.