Two groups have submitted applications to the R.I. Department of Education to open their own charter schools. What sets them apart from other charter schools is their proposed reliance on technology and the Internet.
The Village Green Virtual Public Charter School and the Sheila C. “Skip” Nowell Leadership Academy have applied to be the first charter schools in the state to let technology do the teaching. Each school will have a physical address and require attendance. They are not “virtual” schools in the purest sense. But these schools could redefine the traditional school as it is known in the state.
Both schools have recently completed the mandatory public-hearing process; now it is up to the department and the R.I. Board of Regents to determine their fate, a decision both applicants expect by the end of the year.
The Village Green plans to be a four-year high school located in Providence and serve 270 students.
Robert Pilkington, a long-time Rhode Island charter-school leader, designer and operator, has proposed the high school to be located in either downtown Providence or on the city’s South Side; the plans are only now beginning to gel. “It will be a mix between the traditional bricks and mortar school and a complete ‘virtual’ school,” he said.
Like all charter schools in the state, a nonprofit agency must act as a sponsor, a fiscal agent prior to opening. “The sponsor for the school is Destiny House RI, one of the foremost, well-respected and long-standing community-based organizations in south Providence,” he said.
“The school is not a place where students are given a laptop and are told to go home. Kids still are required to meet typical attendance requirements, it’s just that the courses are more individualized,” he said.
The school will utilize e-learning curricula to teach the student body. A 1:1 ratio of computers to students is planned. Rather than be the designer of the curriculum, the assessments or acting as an assignment corrector, teachers will focus more on following students’ developments inside the curriculum. Teachers will judge when a student needs extra attention, allowing for more one-on-one attention.
The Nowell Leadership Academy is very different from the Village Green model.
“This school hopes to specialize in addressing the youth in Rhode Island who find it hard to attend traditional schools because of issues such as teen pregnancy, parenting, care-taking responsibilities, abuse, and other family-related challenges,” said Deborah Perry, president and CEO of YWCA Northern Rhode Island.