Local high school students could access a whole new academic world under a bill passed by state legislators.
The "Georgia Virtual High School" would allow students to take advanced courses online. The program will be available to public, private and home-schooled students, but public school pupils will have a priority in the program.
Thomson High School Principal Rudy Falana said he doesn't expect the new legislation to have much of an impact until the 2006-2007 school year.
"It does open some opportunities for our students that may need to work ahead with elective courses or may have failed some courses or come up short and need to get a course real quick," he said. "They can take it outside of school on their home computers."
This year marked the first time Thomson High has enrolled students in an e-learning program. Mr. Falana said two students are taking advantage of the on-line classes.
"It provides anytime, any place learning opportunities for our students," he said.
The bill, which Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue proposed after meeting former Clinch County student Cliff Tippens, who couldn't get Advanced Placement courses at his high school, would create a virtual school to be overseen by the State Department of Education. The agency would receive funding from the state on a per-pupil basis to run the classrooms.
Gov. Perdue praised legislators for passing the bill."The Georgia Virtual High School will provide every high school student throughout Georgia the opportunity to learn at their full potential and help prepare them for college," he said in a statement released Thursday following the Senate's passage of the bill.
Cindy Wilson, who's son Bob is a senior at Thomson High this year, said she understands the challenges facing students who want access to Advanced Placement classes in rural school districts.
She said one of the main hurdles to overcome is changing the attitude in the schools about AP classes.
"The students are not taking the classes now, so we need to make sure they'll take advantage of these virtual classes," she said, adding she hoped students would be pushed to take the advanced courses. "They need to be encouraged. They need to be rewarded."
Mr. Falana said he wants faculty and staff to encourage more participation in the virtual classes. But he knows student response will probably be gradual.
"Like anything else that is new, there's going to be some apprehension at first," Mr. Falana said.
Morris News Service Staff Writer Brandon Larrabee contributed to this article.