Online school hoping to get more students to keep virtual doors - 8 News NOW

Online school hoping to get more students to keep virtual doors open

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LAS VEGAS -- Online schools are becoming so popular in Clark County; they were completely full this year. However, a new online school could open up options in the Las Vegas valley.

Families are turning to online education because of issues like bullying, jobs conflicting with classes, or parents dissatisfied with traditional schools.

Four more students are needed, for now, to get funding for the Leadership Academy of Nevada to become public and tuition free.

The academy’s director, Byron Richardson, says by June 8, 126 students need to be enrolled to start getting those dollars in July. Right now, there are 122.

The Leadership Academy of Nevada is a school, that doesn't look like a school. It only takes up three rooms.

“Because we're virtual, we don't need a lot of class space,” Richardson said. “The pressure is on, because it's now or never.”

The only thing missing is the students.

“We either open this fall or we probably, financially, we don't have enough money to go on any further,” Richardson said.

So far, the leadership academy has been running on donations and loans, from parents like Kelly Parker.

“It's very much a grassroots effort,” Parker said.

Parker, a father of two, along with a few other parents have worked together to start the online school after they were impressed with a similar program in Utah.

He says he and his wife have loaned about $30,000 and donated about $10,000 for the startup. They tried opening during the last school year, but could not meet enrollment numbers to secure public funding.

This upcoming school year may be their last chance.

“There have been many times where we decided, ‘is it really worth it?’ Then something happens and we carry on,” Parker said.

Parker who is an accountant is the treasurer on the school's board. He says about $150,000 have already been spent on setting up the school.

Other online schools in southern Nevada were full this school year, but Parker and Richardson say they don't have money in the budget for marketing.

Richardson, an educator, is getting a crash course in business.

“It's really opened my eyes,” Richardson said, “The entrepreneurial spirit has to be there.”

The passion is there. Richardson's own son is enrolled because this is something he believes in.

Students can expect heavy reading, hands-on science projects, and an emphasis on leadership.

“Hopefully, the end result, they will be principle leaders as they go out and will be, be positive impact on their communities,” Richardson said.

The school would serve grades six through 12. Teachers are called mentors. Classes last for about three hours a day. They are live online and set up like a chat room.

“Really the platform that we use in classes allows for socialization,” Byron said.

Richardson says this curriculum is intense and while the process to set up the school may be overwhelming, the team behind it is giving it one last try.

“It's mom and pop because it's just us,” Richardson said.

“We want to succeed,” Parker said.

Even if the Leadership Academy of Nevada gets those four students it needs to meet enrollment numbers in June, there are two more hurdles.

The director says by August 15, 153 need to be enrolled to move forward, and by the fall, 180 students are needed to get full funding.

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