Illinois Virtual School to close July 2022 following reallocation of funding

Cameron Rozek, Editor-in-Chief & Head News Editor

The Illinois Virtual School (IVS), which is run by the Peoria County Regional Office of Education will permanently close on June 30, 2022 following reallocation of funding from the Illinois State Board of Education. 

The last available term of full service courses will begin in January and end in May, with some recovery credit courses running further into the summer until the shutdown. 

The IVS was founded in 2001 as the “Illinois Virtual High School,” originally owned and operated by the Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA) before eventually being handed off to the state of Illinois to be managed by the State Board of Education.

“[ISBE] decided to turn it into a contract, where organizations could apply to take responsibility for the school,” said Beth Crider, regional superintendent at the Peoria Office of Education. “The Peoria County Regional Office of Education ended up running it and was given one million dollars a year to run the school. That allowed us to keep the fees low.”   

Two years ago, the ISBE withdrew this one million dollar yearly grant for the IVS as they began developing their own in-house “Illinois Virtual Course Catalog,” and wanted to invest the IVS funding into this new platform. This course catalog can be found on the ISBE website.

IVS has been able to co-exist with this new platform for the past couple of years, but does not have the savings to continually operate after the summer of 2022. 

“IVS had to transition from a service to a business, but they were not designed that way,” Crider said. “To continue to operate as a business like that, we would have to increase our tuition prices exorbitantly.”

IVS has raised its prices in the past, with the cost of a full service course in 2015 being priced at $190. The current price is $240 for most courses. 

IVS could not feasibly implement these increasingly higher fees needed to stay afloat. Although it would allow IVS courses to continue to be offered in the Illinois Virtual Course Catalog, it would defeat the purpose affordability model that IVS was built on. Additionally, these prices were becoming too volatile to meet the standards of the Illinois Virtual Course Catalog. 

“The ISBE made the course catalog because they wanted to increase the number of opportunities for students,” Crider said. “IVS was growing but it couldn’t be humongous.”

The vast majority of the course providers on the Illinois Virtual Course Catalog are larger online learning firms with a business designed around offering online courses, with the catalog only serving as a database where students can find courses. 

IVS will continue offering courses on the Illinois Virtual Course Catalog for the time being, with most course offerings costing about 240 dollars. IVS pricing is slightly more competitive in comparison to the same courses from other providers that cost up to $100 more. 

Naperville Central students who wish to utilize their two available credits from outside Central must now look elsewhere, as IVS was the primary pipeline where students would be directed for summer courses and additional online learning options following the 2018 shutdown of eLo consortium, the conglomerate e-learning platform of districts 203, 204 and 200. 

When students find a course they would like to take through an outside organization, a form must be submitted to student services detailing the prospective provider and intended course of study. 

“[Central] will partner with the district office to see if the course avenue is accredited,” said Angela Ginnan, Assistant Principal of Student Services. “We don’t want to limit students from using it.”

Although IVS has provided the overwhelming majority of outside courses to students in past years, Ginnan said that in the past students have taken courses at the following other accredited programs like Apex Learning, University of Nebraska, Laurel Springs, National University Virtual High School, Pearson Online Academy, Johns Hopkins University and UC Santa Clara.

“The curriculum there just has to align with the curriculum  here at Naperville Central,” Ginnan said. “Once they complete the course, we receive the transcript from that school and the grade can be transcripted.”

For the time being, students can still enroll in the upcoming IVS course period that starts in January and ends this summer. Students who wish to register for these types of courses can see Mrs. Arneth in student services to get the necessary paperwork. 

“Overall,this is very frustrating to me,” Crider said. “IVS was built by people in Illinois for students in IIllinois. Lots of time, energy and money was used developing this platform. Things are not always the same when you’re working with a national corporation on a larger scale.”