Students in Basalt will soon feast on ‘virtual’ smorgasbord | AspenTimes.com

Students in Basalt will soon feast on ‘virtual’ smorgasbord

:Scott Condon

Kids at Basalt High School will be able to study everything from nuclear physics to obscure art next year without adding teachers or classrooms.

The infusion of new classes is possible through a nationwide program called Virtual High School. It lets students use the Internet to participate in elective classes that many schools – especially small ones like Basalt – cannot afford to offer.

High school principal Jim Waddick said 120 full-semester courses are offered through the program. In some cases, the course work also gains college credit. Basalt’s subscription as a small school entitles it to enroll 15 students per semester.

Basalt has also committed to train a teacher to teach an online class next school year. Another staff member will be trained to coordinate the students’ enrollment and monitor their progress.

Waddick said Virtual High School was made possible for the 2003-04 school year due to a $10,000 grant the school received from the Basalt Education Foundation. The nonprofit organization raises funds and recruits volunteers to help improve education in the Basalt public schools.

The foundation awarded $10,000 grants to each of the Basalt schools on Tuesday. A majority of the funds come from the Roaring Fork Charity Classic, a golf tournament that’s been held the last few years at Basalt’s Roaring Fork Club. The event was canceled this year because the nonprofit beneficiaries said the effort they must put into hosting the event isn’t offset by the funds raised.

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Other funds are raised by the education foundation through fund-raising requests made to midvalley parents and boosters, and through grants.

When it awards the annual grants, the foundation board of directors asks the principals of each of the schools to submit a wish list of projects. The foundation states a preference among the projects.

Waddick said he wanted to use the grant as seed money for Virtual High School. He made a commitment to find funding for at least two more years.

A committee from the staff at the elementary school hopes to determine within the next week how to distribute the $10,000. Proposals include funding for the nationwide JASON Project, funding for the all-school science fair, production of a play, purchase of a high-tech Smart Board and projector, and upgrades at the library.

“This is a very exciting opportunity for us,” said elementary school principal Suzanne Wheeler-Del Piccolo.

The middle school will use its grant to purchase band instruments, purchase books and models for the library, buy science equipment and add materials for an English as a Second Language program, according to principal Pat Henry.

The grants could mark the swan song for the Basalt Education Foundation. Organizers of the Basalt group and similar organizations throughout the Roaring Fork School District, which includes Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, have agreed to combine their efforts in hopes of raising more funds for each of the schools.

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