CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) _ The Virginia Department of Education is launching a pilot program in the fall that will allow students to earn a high school diploma without stepping inside a classroom.

One hundred students will be accepted on a first-come basis. If the pilot is successful, it could be opened to more students and could become permanent, the department said in a news release.

“How this will work will vary greatly from school to school and student to student, but it will have all the requirements, all of the credits and the electives to graduate with an advanced studies diploma or a standard diploma,” department spokesman Charles Pyle told The Daily Progress ( ).

Del. Dickie Bell, R-Staunton, is a proponent of virtual education. But he told The News Virginian ( that he is disappointed with several aspects of the program.

Bell said he believes there should not be an enrollment cap. He also said a virtual program should be for K-12 students, and not just high school, and that it should offer school choice to parents and students.

“This is a tight grip on who and how many,” he said. “This is not the same thing we’ve been working for five years.”

Students will receive instruction through the state’s Virtual Virginia online class program, which provides state-approved coursework to more than 40,000 students. Local schools will issue diplomas and ensure access to textbooks, technology and other materials at no cost.

Albemarle County offers its own online courses, as well as classes through Virtual Virginia. About 50 students take courses through the state, Albemarle public schools spokesman Phil Giarmita told The Daily Progress.

“We’re not yet sure if there will be any interest in the county for the pilot, but certainly the trend in education is heading down this path,” Giaramita said. “But several issues have to be resolved, including course quality and teacher load.”

Social interaction is another issue. Giaramita said Albemarle County has found that students miss interacting with classmates and classroom give-and-take on the subject matter.

While the courses will be online, Pyle said students enrolled in the pilot program can participate in their local school’s extracurricular activities such as sports or band.