The Higley USD governing board approved on July 1 the purchase of online curriculum students will use in the coming school year.

The district will spend $403,500 for the Florida Virtual Online curriculum after a 4-0 vote of the governing board with Board Member Scott Glover out of town for the special meeting.

The money, which will be paid for out of unrestricted capital funds and/or Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, grant money, breaks down as $400,000 for software licenses, $2,500 for 10 hours of webinar training and $1,000 for consulting services.

The Florida Virtual Online curriculum is used in several surrounding districts’ virtual academies, including Gilbert Public Schools and Chandler USD.

Foley touted the curriculum for the quality and variety of offerings, though not all electives are available for it. She also said it works well with Canvas, the district’s learning management platform.

Higley USD has not had a virtual academy, but Dawn Foley, the assistant superintendent for K-12 educational services, said the district has learned the necessity of it through the pandemic and put in an application for an Arizona Online Instruction, or AOI, program June 30.

Having an AOI will not only allow the district to have its own virtual academy but give all district teachers tools to help do some virtual instruction, as has happened in other districts, officials said.

Foley said the district figures it lost about 130 students last year for lack of a virtual academy. Being granted an AOI would help keep those students and associated funding in the district, Foley said.

The process is not short, however. Foley said the state likely will review and audit the program midway through the school year before approving the application.

In the meantime the district will be able to serve families who prefer online-only instruction and receive funding for those students, Foley said.