A new “virtual school” is holding meetings this week to tell parents about sending their kids to school on the computer. Interim Director David Hudson says on-line classes have been offered at the college level for some time but the Pocahontas school district is pioneering the statewide use of the computer classroom. They’ll use Iowa’s open-enrollment law that let students attend any school regardless of where they live, and get part of their instruction over the internet. Not all of it’s over the web — only 20-percent in the early grades, half in higher grades, and the rest comes from textbooks and workbooks, “manipulatives” and science experiments. Each family in the program will get the instructional curriculum delivered to their home, and Hudson says they’ll also provide every student with a computer and printer to use free. Hudson says though the student may never leave home, this is a “full-fledged public education,” and he says it’s different from home-schooling, even with school support.The Pocahontas district will hire certified teachers who’ll have almost daily contact with a student. Hudson says the kids will regularly be tested and take the Iowa Basics, and he adds they’ll be dual-enrolled in local districts too, so they get a well-rounded education. Sports, band, drama and other extracurricular activity are important so they’ll enroll in Pocahontas but also in their local district. Questions have been raised about whether that’s feasible or allowed under state rules, but Hudson says the Virtual School Program’s working on an arrangement to have students allowed to dual-enroll. Hudson says the program offers more support than a set of home-school instructional materials, and also demands more of students and parents enrolling in the Virtual School. They’ll be required to go through the curriculum as they’re guided, and will have to work at their studies for five and-a-half hours a day, 180 schooldays a year just like other kids in the school system. Hudson says it’s a “niche program,” especially good for gifted learners who want to go faster than a traditional classroom would allow, or those who are challenged and need to go slower, at their own pace. For more information surf to http://www.iavsp.org/ (meetings are at three and seven P-M each day, today (Monday) at Davenport’s Best Western Steeplegate Inn, Tuesday at the Longbranch Hotel in Cedar Rapids, Wednesday at Country inn on northwest 118th in Des Moines, and Thursday at Country inn at Council Bluffs)