MARION — Marion senior Jon Stahl knows there is potential in a new high school program that will start to roll out after the New Year and be fully unveiled next fall.

Although his time with Marion Public Schools is nearing its end, it is the potential this new program brings to his soon-to-be alma mater that has him the most excited. That said, in the few months he has left at Marion High School, Michigan Virtual could also benefit him and the goals he has set for after graduation.

Michigan Virtual, which was formerly known as Michigan Virtual University and Michigan Virtual School, started assisting schools, teachers and students with educational needs in 1998. Since its inception, Michigan Virtual has provided online educational tools, resources and courses for middle and high school students, parents and K-12 educators.

Stahl said with the tools and classes one of the programs Marion has opted to use, he will be able to take additional math classes that currently are not available to him as soon as next semester.

“I looked at some of their math classes because I would like to teach mathematics post-secondary,‘ he said. “I looked at some of the AP calculus classes, the extra geometry classes and some of those other classes that will help me even further with what I’m going to be.‘

While math classes are what he is really interested in, he checked out the other online courses that are available through the Michigan Virtual program known as plus programming, Stahl said he hopes it will help educational opportunities grow within the district.

“Hopefully it will bring more kids to the school and help the ones that are already there have more opportunities to learn what we want to learn,‘ he said.

That is exactly why Marion Superintendent Chris Arrington brought Michigan Virtual up to the board of education’s attention and it ultimately decided to move forward with using four different programs over the next two years. At the end of those two years, if the board is happy with the results it can continue to utilize the services of Michigan Virtual or discontinue its services.

Considering the cost to the district to use these four programs during the next two years is $15,500 total, Arrington believes it is worth the price to try.

“After two years the district is not locked in and the board can reevaluate. They can determine if the programs were effective,‘ Arrington said.

While it will help students who are on point or excelling academically through the plus program, Arrington said Michigan Virtual also will help those students who are struggling or falling behind.

Marion will also be utilizing the EdReady program in math after he talked to staff about what area was in need of the most assistance. The EdReady program is designed to help students in grades 5-12 by providing them with a personalized study path to mastering critical skills and concepts in math.

“I asked what our strengths are from an education and curriculum standpoint and what types of leaks do we have in the boat,‘ Arrington said. “I was told the lack of math intervention. Our math scores are not what we want them to be and there was a lack of a solution. We needed to figure out something better.‘

The third program, known as the Suite360, is a multiplatform online character development and behavior intervention program. Suite360 takes the stance that rather than focusing solely on a student’s academic needs, there also is an obligation to tend to a student’s cognitive, physical, behavioral, social and emotional needs as well.

Arrington said this program will be implemented as soon as possible and no later than the second semester. Teachers were already trained on the program on Dec. 11.

The final program Marion opted to utilize is known as Career Online High School. Arrington said this partnership will allow anyone ages 16-66 to sign up and earn their high school diploma. He said that is not a GED diploma but an AdvancED/SACS/NCA/NWAC-accredited high school diploma. He said it also gives those successful graduates a career path.

This, however, is not free and costs $1,295 per person, but during negotiations, Arrington said the district was gifted 17 free seats into the online high school which equates to roughly $22,000. He said it could prove to be a win-win for the students and the district.

“If we can find 17 people seeking a high school diploma and they are between the ages of 16 and 22 before Sept. 1, the district could get a Full-Time Equivalent ($7,631 in foundation allowance) for each of the 17,‘ he said. “We have the opportunity, come fall, to help at least 17 folks achieve their dream of a diploma and a better opportunity of employment and the chance to raise the district’s revenue.‘

If all 17 seats are filled, that would equate to roughly $130,000 in additional funding to the district. Arrington said if the district is able to launch this program in the correct way, it could be a sustainable option for both students and the district.

Stacie Sutten, the Marion High School Academic, College and Career Readiness teacher, said all four of the programs will be beneficial to the district and its students. She said, in particular, the plus programming and EdReady will help students who are excelling and in need of help.

“It (plus programming) will offer our students a wide range of courses we don’t have the staff to teach, including AP courses. It also opens an avenue for credit recovery and offering additional electives,‘ she said.

As for the EdReady program, Sutten said it not only will help those struggling with math but those who may be struggle in the traditional classroom. Simply put, the programs will help to meet the needs of students better.

While the 360Suite, EdReady and plus programs should all be online sometime this coming semester, the online high school will not be ready for students until the start of the 2019-20 school year.