The offering of online classes must be available for all of the Butte students, be they in public schools, parochial schools or home schooled.
Anything less will bring an unwanted lawsuit to School District No. 1.
Butte decided to review the new policy after state Rep. Jon Sesso, D-Butte, said he'd heard from constituents who are miffed over a requirement that students be enrolled at Butte High to take classes online.
Sesso said that the Legislature intended for any state resident to be able to take the program and keeping students out could jeopardize program funding in the upcoming session. Gov. Brian Schweitzer has set aside $2.4 million in his budget for the Digital Academy.
One of the side benefits of the state-funded Digital Academy is to boost student numbers so that schools can get state reimbursement funding.
A possible downside is if so many students take calculus online, for example, but not in the classroom, some school districts could lose their calculus teacher.
Linda Reksten, superintendent of the Butte schools, said the district is working on a policy to include all students, based on policies in similar Class AA schools.
Today, the policies across the state are inconsistent.
Helena allows freshmen, sophomores and juniors to take one class per year, and seniors two. Bozeman requires part-time students to be enrolled in a minimum of two classes - one in-house and one from the Digital Academy. They could take an unlimited number of online classes, too.
Butte initially wanted part-time students to be enrolled in a minimum of four classes per year. Smaller districts are requiring at least four classes, and are not getting pushback as in Butte. Most likely Butte will set the minimum at two.
Another downside is the possibility that having part-time students in a public school, who don't graduate from there, would affect the school's graduation rate.
Perhaps the Legislature should look at a uniform policy.
One thing is for sure. The state needs to continue its funding of the program.
The Legislature can work out the kinks so that students are not left uncounted, schools are not left with an unfunded mandate and graduation rates are fair across the board.