The virtual school is a result of a bill passed in 2006 that required the department to set up such a program.
The program is designed to help a variety of students including those who have a long-term illness, are falling behind, or are home schooled. Students wanting to take advanced Placement classes but can't because the school can't afford to offer the class would be able to take it online. Blunt also said the program is designed to help schools that cannot afford to hire their own teachers to teach upper-division courses.
The department began accepting applications May 7 and will continue to accept applications until May 29. Student can apply to the program on DESE's Web site.The 2008 fiscal year budget includes funding for up to 1,000 full-time students to participate in the program, Rep. Brian Baker, R-Belton, said. Baker proposed similar legislation that passed the House but did not make it to the Senate floor.
At a news conference to announce the program, Baker said that the department had already received nearly 1,000 applications as of Wednesday morning. He said participants will be chosen by lottery.
Baker said the program will cost the state $5.2 million. Two companies have been chosen to administer the program. Connections Academy of Baltimore, Md. will administer the elementary school program and Northwest State University will administer the high school program. The companies will hire Missouri certified teachers.
Baker that 11 vendors bid on to provide the program: eight of them bid on the high school program and three bid to provide the elementary school program. Baker said no Missouri companies bid to offer the elementary school program.
Blunt also said that the program would introduce young students to technology and teach them about its importance.
"The virtual school program truly takes technology, innovation and quality education, combines them together and gives students a true opportunity throughout the state of Missouri to get a quality education," Baker said.