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Virtual Academy option offered to students

When students return to school in the fall, they will have choices.

Warren County School District has a reopening plan that calls for “total reopening” for staff and students.

That means the buildings will be open and the buses will run and all students may go.

But, families who do not want their students to return to school under pandemic conditions will have the option of the district’s Virtual Academy.

“A lot of people are questioning what they want to do,” Virtual Academy Principal Misty Weber said. “I want to make sure families are comfortable and that they know that they have options to stay with Warren County School District.”

For those who want to remain part of the district, but don’t want to send students into school buildings — regardless of the social distancing, disinfecting, and other efforts in place — there is a choice. “Our district offers a K-12 online program,” Weber said. “It is a complete online program. They are able to take all of their courses.”

There are real, local teachers in charge.

“It is backed by Warren County School District teachers,” Weber said.

“We have a huge amount of courses,” she said. “With our high school core — credit recovery, college prep, non-college prep, and honors. We have over 50 different electives.”

There are supplemental materials like workbooks provided to K-6 students.

“We do require live lessons with every student,” Weber said.

There is a way for parents to look at daily lessons and see just what students should take away.

“Our K-5 curriculum also has a learning coach feature,” Weber said. “There is a tab within the lesson that shows the parent exactly what the child is going to learn that day.”

Those lessons would be delivered in real time virtually through Zoom or some other meeting software.

For students in grades 7 through 12, there are “multiple ways of communication” between teacher and student, Weber said. “They are available for live lessons. They are available for support. They could do email. They could do discussions. They could call.”

Meetings between teacher and student are required during each unit in college prep and honors courses.

Electives are chosen to match student interest.

“Some of our most popular electives are health and medical electives,” Weber said.

For the next year, “we have contracted with a new vendor — Point Full,” she said. “They are very career-ready STEM-based electives.” There are offerings in virtual reality and augmented reality, “also a drone certification course. We hope to push that one out as well.”

Teachers look at the courses before they are delivered to students.

“We have had the WCSD teachers look at our courses to make sure they match the curriculum maps,” Weber said.

And, those teachers don’t have to ‘stick to the program.’

“Our teachers have the ability to modify for each individual student,” Weber said. “It’s not like a box curriculum that we don’t have any say in.”

The Virtual Academy is not the only alternative to brick-and-mortar education. There are many cyber-charter schools.

Naturally, Weber would like families who are looking into cyber schools to consider Virtual Academy. “There is an option to not jump to an outside entity when we can support them here.”

Families that opt for the Virtual Academy will not be changing districts, nor even attendance areas.

In a hypothetical situation involving a Warren Area High School student who opts for Virtual Academy, Weber said, “You are still a WAHS student… You’re just taking your courses differently.”

“You will receive your diploma from WAHS,” she said. “All your supports are still there. Band. Athletics. You play athletics for that building.”

In the case of another shutdown of school buildings, the district is ready to deliver education to all students in kindergarten through eighth grades and all Warren County Career Center students, and all specials to students at every grade level through the Virtual Academy.

Core and World Language classes for students in grades 9 through 12 would be supported using Microsoft Teams.

Families do not have to opt for the Virtual Academy at the beginning of the school year.

“At any time, if a family decides or needs, they can go completely virtual and we’ll transfer them into our program,” Weber said.

The transitions are designed to be smooth, but Weber would like to gauge the level of interest in the program.

“We really would like to try to figure out if a family or student is interested, to get them signed up,” she said.

The application for the Virtual Academy will be posted to the district’s website and Facebook page.

“If they have questions, they contact me at (814) 723-6900 ext. 1315,” Weber said. “We’ll work through any questions they have and make sure they’re comfortable.”

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