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Central Unified School District officials were thinking about creating an online school before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, closing schools and forcing students and teachers to shift to distance learning.

portrait of Andrew Alvarado

Superintendent Andy Alvarado

“For families that are interested and looking for an online school, they’d look at other places to make that happen. For us, it was a no-brainer.” — superintendent Andy Alvarado

Knowing that some families, concerned about the potential for infection after schools reopen in August, would be seeking an online school alternative prompted the district to accelerate its plans, Superintendent Andy Alvarado told GV Wire on Wednesday.

“We really pumped the gas on this thing to get it going,” he said. “For families that are interested and looking for an online school, they’d look at other places to make that happen. For us, it was a no-brainer.”

Central’s trustees voted Tuesday evening to open the Central Online School to K-12 students on Aug. 12.

Besides offering curriculum designed for students in grades K-5 and 6-12, the online school will provide appropriate services for special needs students and English language learners.

District Is Surveying Families

The district is surveying families about their preferences for in-classroom or distance learning when the new school year starts. About 100 students already have expressed interest in an online school option, Alvarado said.

There will be no limit on the number of students who may enroll, he said.

An online school could help Central keep students — and state and federal funding revenues — in the district, Alvarado said.

The Central Online School will be staffed with teachers already employed by the district.

Alvarado said Central won’t know until after the school year starts how many students will attend class vs. opting for the online instruction, so there may be shifting of staff to accommodate that.

Other Online Schools

Central will be the second unified school district in the Fresno area with an online school. Clovis Online School is chartered through Clovis Unified School District and is open to students in grades 7 through 12.

Districts also are competing with independent online schools for students, Alvarado said.

In addition to offering curriculum designed for students in grades K-5 and 6-12, Central Online School will provide appropriate services to special needs students and English language learners.

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