Virtual Academy web site

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago on Tuesday announced that it has begun offering online courses to its middle and high school students as part of a partnership with a private firm. (Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago / October 22, 2013)

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago on Tuesday announced that it has begun offering online courses to its tens of thousands of middle and high school students as part of a partnership with a private firm.

Courses, many of which students can begin within days of enrollment, are designed to serve students in grades six through 12 who either require an accelerated pace or need more time to master concepts. Students can take summer school, learn languages, and enroll in additional advanced-placement courses or electives otherwise not available at their school.

According to Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, superintendent of Catholic Schools, teachers are employed by Keystone, the subsidiary of a firm that partnered with the Miami Archdiocese earlier this year.

“We are aware of the evolving delivery systems and modes of digital learning and believe that the Virtual Academy will help our kids by expanding the definition of what is a great Catholic school,” McCaughey said in a statement.

The online option is also available to students who can’t attend a traditional school because of travel, family situations or illness, and to musicians or athletes who are training for competitions or careers. To get credit in a Catholic school, students must be enrolled there. But home-schooling families seeking a similar curriculum can sign up directly with the firm.

Middle school courses cost $289 to $399, depending on the length of the course. High school courses cost $149 to $749, depending on the subject. Tuition goes directly to the firm, not the archdiocese.

McCaughey told the Tribune that the archdiocese conducted webinars for principals and looked at sample courses before signing up. She expects many students will take advantage of the language options. Keystone offers Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, German, Latin and French.

“It opens up a world of choice,” she said.

mbrachear@tribune.com
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