LANSING (WWJ/AP) – With about 1.5 million public school students starting classes Tuesday, kids in Michigan are getting more online education choices this school year.

Five new cyberschools, where students take all their classes online,  are opening, and many school districts are boosting their online offerings, according to a report by the Detroit Free Press.

Also, public school students in grades 5-12 will be able to take up to two online courses per semester offered by any district or the state’s virtual school. A statewide catalog of online classes maintained by the Michigan Virtual University is set to begin running in October.

Students won’t need permission from their home school district to sign up for the classes, and the home district must pay for them. Previously, students could take up to two classes in their own districts, and the districts would decide whether they would allow their students to take the classes elsewhere.

“I like that the state is offering more opportunities,” said Rachel Miller of Dexter, whose two children will be starting their second year enrolled in the Virtual Learning Academy Consortium. That program, operated by Oakland Schools, is available to students in nearly 60 districts in Genesee, Lapeer, Livingston, Oakland, Wayne and Washtenaw counties.

“I feel good that we’re using the modern things that are available to parents,” Miller said.

Jamey Fitzpatrick, president and CEO of MVU, the state-created nonprofit that operates the Michigan Virtual School, said he expects growth in online education in Michigan to come more from students using new state options than from full-time cyberschool enrollment.

“Full-time online cyber schools will continue to expand in Michigan, given the extensive advertising blitz we have seen this summer targeted at parents,” he said. “However, I am doubtful that a large percentage of Michigan parents will enroll their children in these kinds of programs.”

Since 2009, the number of school districts and charter schools that have permission from the Michigan Department of Education to run programs in which students take all or most of their classes online has grown from 12 to 192.

“They’re being aggressive as to trying to offer an alternative to traditional school. If you drive around, you see little signs everywhere,” said Cheryl Azzi, who enrolled her daughter in Nexus Academy of Royal Oak, a new charter school that blends online learning with traditional learning.

Michigan was among the first states to establish a statewide virtual school for K-12 students with the Michigan Virtual School in 2000. In 2006, it added the requirement that students must have some kind of online experience to graduate from high school.

TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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