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Office of Digital Learning

Commonwealth of Massachusetts Virtual Schools

A Commonwealth of Massachusetts Virtual School is a public school operated by a board of trustees whose teachers primarily teach from a remote location using the Internet or other computer-based methods and whose students are not required to be located at the physical premises of the school. Like a charter school, a virtual school is an autonomous, single-school district that operates independently of any existing school district.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education grants a certificate to the board of trustees of a virtual school. The school and its board then becomes a state entity, directly accountable to the Board and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Like all public schools, a virtual school cannot discriminate in the enrollment of students on the basis of race, color, national origin, creed, sex, gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, age, ancestry, athletic performance, special need, English language proficiency, or academic achievement.

Types of Virtual Schools

Three types of public virtual schools are possible in Massachusetts:

  • Statewide CMVS: A statewide CMVS, which can only be sponsored by an educational collaborative or a school district through the 2018-19 school year, is able to enroll students from across the state. State law authorizes the Board to grant up to ten certificates to operate such schools, provided that not more than two percent of students statewide attend a CMVS and five percent of enrolled students reside in the establishing district(s). Applicants for a statewide CMVS propose, and the Board appoints, the initial members of the CMVS board, and the Commissioner appoints any new members proposed by the CMVS board.

  • Collaborative or multi-district agreement CMVS: A collaborative or multi-district agreement CMVS enrolls students who reside in member districts. Proposed members of the CMVS board are nominated by the members of the school committee or the collaborative board and subject to the approval of the Commissioner. Like a statewide CMVS, an applicant must apply to the Board for a certificate to operate the school, and student enrollment in the school is included under the two percent cap of students statewide attending a CMVS. Unlike a statewide CMVS, a collaborative or multi-district agreement CMVS is not subject to the five percent requirement because it can only enroll students who reside in member districts, and there is no certificate limit for such schools.

  • Virtual school operated by a single school district that enrolls students who reside in that district: Such schools do not require a certificate, a board of trustees, or an enrollment cap; however, the district must provide a summary description of the proposed virtual school to the Commissioner for review and comment at least four months in advance of opening the school. If you are seeking to operate this type of school, please contact the Office of Digital Learning for additional guidance.

Virtual Schools Application Process

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Application Documents and Frequently Asked Questions
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Request for Qualified Reviewers for Virtual School Applications


Last Updated: January 13, 2016
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