Shreyas Joshi, a sophomore at Falmouth High School, has a passion for physics.

Last year, he took an Advanced Placement physics B class even though his schedule was full. This year, he’s taking AP physics C, which isn’t offered at the school.

Joshi, 14, takes the classes through Virtual High School Global Consortium, a Massachusetts-based company that offers accredited courses taught over the internet by 396 certified teachers worldwide.

It offers more than 300 online courses, from peacemaking to AP statistics, which students might not be able to take because of a scheduling conflict or because the class isn’t offered in the standard curriculum.

Joshi, who’s taking nine classes this fall, said the web-based classes give him the flexibility to do his course work at night or on the weekends.

“I’m a busy student. I find it very difficult to squeeze everything in,” Joshi said. “I wanted to challenge myself. I really like physics. It gives me a more practical understanding of the world and helps me understand certain phenomena.”

The online academic program is gaining popularity in school districts across the state as administrators struggle to expand opportunities for students in anticipation of another reduction in state and federal aid for education.

Carol Arnold, a spokesperson for Virtual High School, said she has seen a gradual increase in the number of Maine schools involved in the program.

This year, 43 schools are participating, compared to 27 schools in 2007. She said it’s an ideal program for schools in the rural parts of the state that might not offer a specialized class.

“For a school that is small,” Arnold said, “there is no way they can offer a specific class that would potentially have low enrollment. We bridge the gap of what the school can provide in person, and the education or the course that is needed to prepare students for the next level of education.”

Windham High School will take the leap to virtual learning this year. About 15 students will take courses like constitutional law, pre-veterinarian medicine and environmental science. Students interact with classmates from other states and around the world. A certified teacher at the school will oversee each student’s work online.

Superintendent Sanford Prince believes the program will help prepare his students for the future.

“We need to design the curriculum instruction in our schools around our learners of today and tomorrow,” Prince said. “The beauty is that this opens up many more course options for students. They will be interacting with students all over the world. We are diverse, but not that diverse.”

Schools use various ways to pay for the classes, each of which costs roughly $425 including textbooks and materials.

Westbrook, which is beginning its second year of Virtual High School, funds its participation with reimbursements from the Federal E-Rate Program, according to Superintendent Reza Namin.

Namin, a certified site coordinator for the consortium, said the program leaves it up to individual schools to come up with a selection process.

Namin said he introduced the program at Westbrook to expand the school’s curriculum and provide more opportunities for students. This year, 10 students will participate the program.

He said last year’s program was a huge success.

“It’s the right environment for students that are passionate about a course that we are not able to offer,” Namin said. “The success is in providing the gap for our kids. We identify the students who will flourish. Sometimes when you change the environment, they will learn.”

Morgan Rielly, 14, a freshman at Westbrook High School, took a class last year on the Dec. 7, 1942, attack on Pearl Harbor. He scored the highest grade among his 19 classmates.

“I got to do what I love learning the history about World War II,” Rielly said. “I got to be challenged by taking a high school class. It pushed me to do more research on certain subjects. I had a very fun time a great time.”

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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