The Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, USA, this autumn, hopes to open a digital high school, where lectures, class discussions and homework largely take place in an online environment instead of a traditional bricks-and-mortar classroom.
Although online courses have long been available to Catholic home-school students, including some that go back to the 1990s, the idea of an accredited and diocesan-supported online Catholic school is quite new. The National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) said it is aware of the existence of just one other: the Archdiocese of Miami Virtual Catholic School.
It opened in 2013. It claims to be the only diocesan-supported school of its kind. At least one other archdiocese, Chicago, also launched a digital academy in the same year. But it is intended to offer supplementary courses taken by students already enrolled in a physical school.
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This could be the answer to the continued encroachment of secularist state agencies seeking to undermine that faith environment of christian schools in many counties.
One such example from an officially Catholic school in Ireland was reported on Irish radio last week:
A Catholic primary school offering an alternative non-Catholic ethics and religious beliefs programme to pupils has said schools interested in the idea should “go for it”.
Dochtuir Uí Shúilleabháin school in Skibbereen introduced the programme two years ago. The school says it has been a resounding success, with 37 of its 59 pupils opting for non-Catholic classes.
The school’s patron, An Foras Patrúnachta, said while Gaelscoil Dr Uí Shúilleabháin is adhering to its Catholic ethos, it also recognises that there are parents who do not want a Catholic formation for their children, and the school is facilitating that.