TALLAHASSEE - Florida's main online school has been forced to tell worried parents and students that they aren't about to get charged for failing to complete courses.
A charter school in Fort Myers sent out letters this month telling students they would have to pay $425 if they failed to complete courses at Florida Virtual School. The letter from Gateway Charter High School linked the penalty to recently passed legislation.
Florida Virtual School officials called the letter false since students residing in Florida don't get charged for taking classes. They have complained to the Department of Education.
"As a school district we were just highly concerned for our students that they would be threatened," said Star Kraschinsky with Florida Virtual School. "There was a lot of confusion and panic."
The letter from Gateway Charter High School also stated that students could drop the Florida Virtual School course and re-enroll in a new online course that would be offered by the charter school.
Colleen Reynolds, a spokeswoman for Charter Schools USA, said that the letter was sent in "error." She says it only went to 25 students. Charter Schools USA operates Gateway Charter and other charter schools in the state.
But Florida Virtual School officials say in the last few weeks nearly 60 students attending Charter Schools USA schools in the state have dropped online courses. Florida Virtual School only gets paid if students complete their courses.
The letter comes amid ongoing changes to how the state handles online learning. New high school students must complete an online course in order to graduate.
State lawmakers also made additional changes this year that affected how much money Florida Virtual School receives. Florida Virtual School, which grew out of a pilot project, employs more than 1,000 teachers.