Fully-online school is an option as uncertainty on reopening schools continues

Thousands of Virginia families are looking into online school options for the fall

ROANOKE, Va. – Parents are trying to plan for the fall not knowing what school will look like for students. Thousands of families are looking into new options that don’t involve local school systems and are online.

Serenity Mullins loves to do her school work outside with the family cat.

“Last year at school I thought it was difficult. There were too many kids in the class and they interrupted the teacher. I didn’t feel like I was learning as much as I should,” said Serenity Mullins, who just finished 10th grade and her first year all online with Virginia Virtual Academy.

Mom, Suzy Mullins, teachers 8th grade science for the program and says when the Governor ordered schools to close it didn’t impact their learning or teaching.

“I’ve watched my friends really struggle learning how to teach their children at home and I’ve watched my fellow teachers really struggle learning how to do that. It’s like they were just thrown into the fire . You’re in a nice building one day and the next you’re at home,” said Suzy Mullins.

Thousands of families don’t want that to happen again and K-12 has been overwhelmed with questions as parents look into online school options.

“This is a great option for students if you’re just wanting to have a firm plan in place in August or September,” said Katie Poindexter, Virginia Virtual Academy middle school principal.

It’s free public school, online for kindergarten through 12th graders.

You must have a learning coach for the students who can be an older sibling, parent, grandparent or someone you hire to help students as needed. Younger students need more help than high schoolers with things like logging in, finding materials, etc.

To enroll - you apply, you’re admitted and then you are no longer enrolled at your brick-and-mortar school. Kindergarten to 8th grade can enroll through September but high school classes start at the beginning of September so they must be enrolled earlier.

“It’s awesome that we are able to say we can provide this virtually if your brick and mortar cannot because we’ve been doing it for so long,” said Poindexter. We ship the students all the materials that they’ll need for the year and then we load an online school for them so they have access to all of their courses."

For families like the Mullins, the online school has been a great comfort in a time of uncertainty.

“With Virginia Virtual Academy Serenity’s education just kept right on going. There was no disruption, they kept having classes,” said Suzy Mullins.

About 2,000 students were enrolled for the 2019-2020 school year and they say they could have 5,000 starting in the fall, based on the interest they’re getting now.

They will also be hiring new teachers for the growing classes.

There are a lot of frequently asked questions including:

How do students interact with teachers and other classmates in a virtual school environment?

As part of the online school experience students participate in online Class Connect sessions, which are an integral part of the program. Each student will have scheduled sessions with their teachers and classmates, and the frequency will be determined by their teacher and school.

Is a virtual school day more flexible than my current student’s day?

The online school environment can be more flexible than the traditional brick and mortar school as you are able to modify the day to suit your student’s strengths. However, mandatory online classes and meetings with the teacher will be held at scheduled times throughout the day.

What are the anticipated hours for students?

Students will be working a full school day. They will participate and attend online classes with their teacher and classmates, as well as complete online lessons and assessments. In addition to their online classes, they’ll do offline projects and reading, and work with hands-on materials.

You can find the answers to other FAQ on the K-12 website, the company that powers the Virginia Virtual Academy.

About the Author

You can see Jenna weekday mornings at the anchor desk on WSLS 10 Today from 5-7 a.m. She also leads our monthly Solutionaries Series, where we highlight the creative thinkers and doers working to make the world a better place.

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