St. James starts own virtual school

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 27, 2012

By David Vitrano


LUTCHER – The St. James Parish Public School System is embarking on a new venture for the upcoming school year in the form of a virtual academy.

The online schooling choice is nicknamed vC3 — the Cs stand for connect, customize and complete — and was created in response to the statewide version, Louisiana Connections Academy, which had five students from St. James Parish enroll last year.

“It’s exciting. It is something that is just embracing a whole new world,” said Becky Louque, the former Romeville Elementary principal who was tapped to lead the virtual academy.

Although the academy will share many features with the statewide version, Louque said enrolling in the local virtual academy has a number of advantages. Face-to-face help will be available for the students at the Career Technology Center in Lutcher. In addition, students will still be somewhat tied to their “base school” — the school in whose district the student resides — and is free to participate in extracurricular activities there. Also, those students who are eligible for the laptop program will receive one through the district, and those who qualify for free and reduced lunch can instead receive a stipend for Internet connectivity.

Then there are the freedoms the program allows. Besides the wide range of courses offered, students are free to work at their own pace.

“As long as you finish a course and are successful, you can move on,” said Louque.

Louque said students will be monitored for periods of inactivity, however, in hopes that a student will not fall too far behind.

She also said exams will be taken in person to ensure the students are doing the work themselves.

Superintendent Alonzo Luce stressed that such schooling is not the right choice for every student.

“A big challenge is to make sure the right students choose the program. Some kids learn independently extremely well,” he said. “We’re going to try to help the parents choose.”

Luce said the decision to create the virtual academy was both based on natural progression and a reaction to state policy. The state took $13,500 per student enrolled in the Louisiana Connections Academy last year.

“We’ve been doing a lot of virtual classes for a few years,” he said, adding, “Because of the statewide virtual schools, we didn’t think we had a choice to compete completely.”

That natural progression may lead to students who spend some time in brick-and-mortar schools and some time as virtual schools, but the district is proceeding cautiously.

“After we get our feet a little more wet, we will probably see more hybrid students,” said Luce.

Added Louque,” We want the students to be successful.”

More information and online registration forms are available at the academy’s website,