ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) – For families trying to determine what to do with their students in the fall, flexibility is going to be key.
No matter the age. No matter the school district. Students around WDBJ7′s hometowns will have a school year unlike anything we’ve seen before.
“We’re all trying to get away from the remote emergency piece that was Spring 2020 and we’re trying now to get that high quality online education,” Brian Mott, the executive director of Virtual Virginia said.
Virtual Virginia has been an online substitute or addition to attending a brick-and-mortar school since 2006. Before that it was a satellite feed where additional Virginia certified educators could be broadcast into schools around the Commonwealth.
“It has its roots reaching students and accommodating needs for over 30 years,” he explained. “Thankfully, Virtual Virginia, our administration, our faculty, they’ve been doing this for a long time.”
But never has that need been greater than during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020.
“Every school division has a need to provide a platform content in either blended or online learning,” he said.
So even though no one could have seen COVID-19 coming, Virtual Virginia was ready.
“We had timelines internally of how we were going to meet the needs of learners across the state, but obviously all of our timelines have been sped up.”
Virtual Virginia offers two types of learning models.
Option one is called the Complementary Program where courses are taught by a Virtual Virginia educator. This option is common for homeschool students as well as students interested in courses not offered by their school.
“Another program we have is called the Outreach Program, where public school divisions use the Virtual Virginia platform, use our content, but it’s their teachers teaching the courses.”
Pre-COVID, the ratio between the two programs across the 132 school divisions was split pretty evenly. Now, Virtual Virginia is seeing the demand for the Outreach Program grow leaps and bounds.
“People are looking at options and they want it to be flexible and they want it to be tailored,” Mott said. “Virtual Virginia can provide that. And it’s so much more important now than even just a few months ago.”
They’ve been working with all the Virginia school districts, teaching faculty and staff how to incorporate online learning into their classrooms.
“Most school divisions are giving students a chance to do things either fully online or in the classroom. And that’s what I like to see, is the options that are available now. And even the school divisions that are going online are still providing options for students.”
Mott said there’s flexibility with the online schedule, but for the most part it keeps in line with the school calendar.
“One of the big bummers is that Virtual Virginia, we don’t have snow days,” he laughed.
A benefit however is that students can also transfer back into the public school at any time.
“Having everyone working from a single platform is [great because] we can all share content, we can all share courses,” Mott said. “School divisions can all share with one another.”
He added COVID-19 quickly showed the effectiveness of virtual learning and brought schools together.
“In the absence of that environment, I think it would all still get done,” he said. “I have faith in teachers. I have faith in educators, parents and students working together. But I think it’ll be far more efficient doing it this way.”
Enrollment is still open for all of Virtual Virginia’s online courses. Mott said there is flexibility when it comes to enrolling because they recognize how fluid school plans are now.
If you are going to to remain a part of your school district, you will need to enroll through your child’s school.
If you’re homeschooling, you register online.
Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.