We can only hope the Maine Charter School Commission members spoke with equal wisdom when they approved the application for the Maine Connections virtual school.

It will become an online grade 7-12 school serving about 170 students who will learn from home by computer. But we have nagging doubts.

In this digitized world, every student should have an online component to their education, from first grade through graduation.

Virtual classrooms can open up opportunities for students who excel, those who lag behind or those who live in remote areas.

But the evidence so far suggests that completely detaching most students from regular brick-and-mortar schools does not work.

Too often, their learning suffers and a high number of these students do not re-enroll in the virtual school.

Students who leave a virtual school produce two headaches for brick-and-mortar schools.

First, they are often far behind and need remediation when they return and, second, the money to educate those children has already been turned over to an online vendor.

Many experts now recommend, instead, a blended approach that combines a virtual school with brick-and-mortar school supervision.

Unfortunately, the enabling charter legislation in Maine requires the opposite, that students completely leave a public school before joining a virtual school.

A bill moving through the Legislature would put a moratorium on all virtual schools.

But the people behind the Maine Connections program are qualified and sincere. Let’s see how their virtual school performs before approving others.

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.


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