BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick has signed a bill paving the way for virtual schools in Massachusetts.

The new law gives preference to virtual schools that reach out to special groups of students, including students with physical disabilities, students who have been expelled or dropped out, students who are pregnant and students who feel bullied.

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Under the law no more than 10 virtual schools will be allowed to operate in Massachusetts at any time and no more than two percent of students enrolled statewide can be enrolled full-time in virtual schools.

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Private and parochial schools and for-profit entities are not eligible to apply to open a virtual school.

Other groups of students targeted by the schools could include gifted and talented students, students seeking academic work not available in their school and students in rural communities.

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.