Kentucky’s first fully-online school marks 20 years in Barren County

The Kentucky Department of Education has recognized BAVEL as the state’s first comprehensive virtual school offered by a public school system.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 6:34 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GLASGOW, Ky. (WBKO) – Like most things in the world, education has seen vast changes over the last 20 years.

Educators with the Barren Academy of Virtual and Expanded Learning (BAVEL) are marking 20 years of offering non-traditional pathways to obtain a high school diploma. The program began in 2004 out of Barren County High School as an alternative program for students on the brink of dropping out.

“It was totally different 20 years ago, but our administrators saw what the future could look like with that online,” said Melinda Owens, a former elementary school teacher and now the co-director of BAVEL. “And that’s where we began to go – down that road to begin having an online program and an online school.”

The program partnered with the Kentucky Virtual High School and the Kentucky Department of Education from 2005 to 2010. The KVHS disbanded, and BAVEL became a recognized program under the state’s Digital Learning initiative.

Over 200 students are currently enrolled in BAVEL’s programming, and more than 30 educators work to teach them. Students range from first grade to seniors in high school.

“It is meeting those standards that students need to continue through school to gain and earn that Kentucky high school diploma,” Owens said.

Any student with a permanent address in Kentucky is able to be a part of BAVEL classrooms. A recent graduate from Jefferson County said his transition to BAVEL from Jefferson County Public Schools just before schools closed in wake of the pandemic was integral.

“Had I not gone to BAVEL, I think it would have been a struggle,” said Cooper Evans, a 2023 graduate of the program.

The Kentucky Department of Education has recognized BAVEL as the state’s first comprehensive virtual school offered by a public school system.

A classification in how schools are grouped shifted BAVEL from an alternative school to an online school classification just this year. BAVEL’s leaders are hopeful the change will offer more transparency into the program’s test scores and successes, which they said are higher than average.

“We had a National Merit finalist last year,” said Olivia Dooley, BAVEL’s principal.

First-grade student Jace told WBKO he’s been learning to count to 120 in the last few days. He has dreams of becoming a paleontologist in the future.

Brittany Frankhauser, a parent of a fifth-grade BAVEL student, said she feels the flexible curriculum offers her family more time together.

“Being able to have more family time and having the structure with this school program has been incredibly beneficial for our family,” Frankhauser said.

BAVEL administrators said more public schools across Kentucky and the nation will likely develop comprehensive programs like theirs in the future.