The Juneau School District building, March 20, 2020. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

The Juneau School District building, March 20, 2020. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Alaska enrolls students in Florida-based virtual school

The move garnered criticism from educators.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration launched a new virtual school for Alaska students in partnership with a Florida program, garnering criticism from educators adjusting their lessons to online teaching amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The state of Alaska signed a $525,000 contract through February 2021 with the Florida Virtual School, which had enrolled about 80 Alaska students by Friday, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported.

“The ‘fourth-quarter solution’ that is suggested through the purchase of this Florida version of distance delivery is seen as an insult to most, if not all, teachers in the state who have been supporting their students,” Juneau Schools Superintendent Bridget Weiss said.

The Florida Virtual School was recommended to Dunleavy’s education commissioner by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

The Florida program has previously worked with Alaska schools, Alaska Education Commissioner Michael Johnson said, adding that the new contract is intended to expand options for students stuck at home over measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

School buildings in Alaska are closed until at least May 1, and educators across the state are providing lessons remotely.

“It’s really been inspiring to see how teachers have responded and are filling in these gaps,” he said. “And so it’s not intended to say that somebody’s not doing what they should. It’s just trying to put as many options for students on the table as possible and, where it works and where it’s helpful, then it’s there.”

Educators across the state are concerned and have a lot of questions after finding out about the contract the same day students were already allowed to register, said Tim Parker, president of the teachers union, NEA-Alaska, which represents more than 12,000 Alaska public school teachers and support staff.


“The ‘fourth-quarter solution’ that is suggested through the purchase of this Florida version of distance delivery is seen as an insult to most, if not all, teachers in the state who have been supporting their students.”Juneau Schools Superintendent Bridget Weiss


Weiss has agreed, citing her disappointment with the lack of transparency from the state.

“We’re in a crisis, and teachers and educators are meeting the needs of the students that they have,” Parker added. “I’m not sure having a teacher in Florida is going to improve the situation at this point in time.”

The Florida program was created in 1997 and offers more than 190 online courses to more than 200,000 students across all 50 states. The school told NPR in March that it hopes to double its enrollment.

Alaska’s contract with the program includes allowing K-12 students to register for online classes for free for the final part of the school year scheduled to end in May. The courses will be taught by Florida-based teachers certified in that state. The Florida staff is also contracted to train up to 50 Alaska teachers to move their own classes online and help the state transition to Alaska-based educators teaching the classes.

• This is an Associated Press Report.

More in News

The Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Encore docks in Juneau in October, 2022. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for t​​he Week of Oct. 1

Here’s what to expect this week.

This image from House Television shows Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., the Speaker Pro Tempore, presiding as the House passes a 45-day funding bill on Saturday at the Capitol in Washington. The House vote was 335-91. The measure now goes to the Senate, which also is meeting Saturday. (House Television via AP)
On the brink of a federal shutdown, the House passes a 45-day funding plan and sends it to Senate

Peltola, still in Alaska after husband’s death, abstains from vote, but offers statement of support.

This is a photo taken at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center in July. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Forest Service, Tlingit and Haida to co-steward Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area

Tribe dedicated to “protection of the historic and cultural resources in the area,” president says.

Retiring Deputy Chief David Campbell, left, and City and Borough of Juneau Manager Rorie Watt, right, smile for a photo Friday afternoon during a ceremony held at the Juneau Police Station. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Juneau’s deputy and interim police chief retires after 28 years

David Campbell honored for his service during a ceremony Friday afternoon.

Violinist/vocalist Chelsey Green, seen here with her Green Project ensemble in 2022, is scheduled to perform Oct. 4 and 5 during the Juneau Jazz and Classics Fall Music Festival. (Photo courtesy of Chelsey Green)
This fall’s Juneau Jazz and Classics offers the world on a string

Cellos and violins will be playing rock, folk, baroque, fusion and traditional at five-day festival.

(Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Police investigate ‘random’ drive-by pellet gun attack downtown

A person in a white SUV reportedly shot at two women Wednesday night.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Derek Bos of Colorado smiles for a photo Thursday evening outside of City Hall. Bos is one of two finalists seeking the chief position at the Juneau Police Department. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Chief finalist says building trust in schools and faith-based communities a priority

He addresses past controversial arrests of two school district administrators in Colorado.

Most Read