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story.lead_photo.caption The Fulton Public Schools Board of Education met Wednesday evening. A vote to approve Fulton students' enrollment in an online schooling program was not unanimous. Pictured from left are Leah Baker, Matt Gowin, Jackie Pritchett, Verdis Lee Sr., Todd Gray and Emily Omohundro. Photo by Quinn Wilson / Fulton Sun.

Fulton Public Schools officials are concerned with an August ruling allowing Fulton students to enroll in courses through the Missouri Virtual Academy.

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The FPS Board of Education voted to approve the enrollment of Fulton students to MOVA at their Wednesday evening board meeting at Fulton High School, but the vote was not unanimous.

"My feelings are that school boards are voted on by the district they serve, so I didn't think it was right for a judge to tell us that they know what's best for our students," said FPS board Vice President Todd Gray, who cast the lone dissenting vote.

FPS denied the enrollment of three students to MOVA earlier this year because Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education had not yet approved the online courses. The lawsuit resulted in MOVA being added to DESE's list of approved online schooling vendors. (For more on the lawsuit, check out this Fulton Sun story: bit.ly/2ZdT1Lt)

According to FPS Superintendent Jacque Cowherd, MOVA has not shared any specific information with FPS concerning its instructors and curriculum, despite claiming they do meet state standards. This is the central problem for the district in regards to not wanting Fulton students enrolling in MOVA, Cowherd said.

"As a district, we are responsible to make sure we have certified teachers; we don't know who's teaching at MOVA. We're responsible for making sure (our teachers and courses) align to state standards; we don't know if those things are aligned (at MOVA)," Cowherd said.

At the board meeting, school board President Emily Omohundro said the students enrolled in MOVA would only set foot on FPS property for the state's standardized testing.

"If Mom and Dad think that's the best thing for their kids, we'll see at the statewide testing how they do. If they blow the top out of it, maybe we'll enroll more kids," Cowherd said.

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Five Fulton students are now enrolled following the lawsuit and ahead of today's enrollment deadline, Cowherd said.

However, he said if the district does not begin receiving information from MOVA or if the students begin to perform poorly, they will not continue to pay for the students' enrollment.

"If the kids do well, we'll pay the bill like we're supposed to, but if we don't see information or they don't do well, we won't pay the bill," Cowherd said.

"Sometimes you have to withhold payments so you can get information. If they're not going to provide us with the information we need to know, then we're not going to pay," Gray said.

Gray has been opposed to FPS students' enrollment in MOVA from the beginning and does not believe the district should have allowed them to enroll.

Cowherd said he does not hold the same sentiment as Gray. He felt district funds should be used for other matters rather than continuing the same legal battle. However, he said if the state hadn't been forced to add MOVA to their list of approved schools, "this would be a different discussion."

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