Montgomery County Public Schools offer optional ‘virtual academy’ for next school year

How would you like it if your school district in the D.C. region, offered a full-time virtual instruction as an option?

Officials with Montgomery County Public Schools said Thursday, they are offering a ‘virtual academy’ option to families for the next school year.

READ MORE: Most students in DC region plan to stick with virtual learning

The proposed online option is going to be much different than how kids are currently learning online during the ongoing pandemic.

"We just know that over the years, we have seen an increase in need for greater flexibility for our students who are dealing with a number life circumstances," said Gboyinde Onijala, a spokeswoman for MCPS. 

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This virtual model will have a dedicated group of staff members rather than splitting teacher attention between students in person and on the computer, and teachers won’t have participate.

Former MCPS superintendent and now CEO of PDK International, Joshua Starr said, this optional approach could work well for high school students.

"We know that a number of high school kids in Montgomery County are taking care of younger kids or younger siblings who are working a job and if they can get some credits or accelerate and graduate within three years, I think that’s great," said Starr.

READ MORE: Virtual ‘thank you’ on Zoom at one Montgomery County high school, goes viral

"You have to make sure that it is actually serving the kids and the families who truly need it. Not the ones who say, ‘You know? Forget about it, because I’m not going to go to school, because maybe I don’t want to get vaccinated and I’m going to do everything online.’"

Some elementary school parents like Jennifer Reeseman who is also a psychologist told Fox 5’s Ayesha Khan Friday, even while the virtual academy is being presented as just as an option, she is hoping that it doesn’t take away the main focus of getting younger kids back into the classroom, full-time and keeping them there. 

"As a Montgomery County parent I am aware that two-thirds of our schools currently have waiting lists for in person learning instruction," said Reesman, "so I am a little bit mystified as to why we are not focusing on the waiting list issue." 

"We have some of our earliest learners, our elementary students and middle school students who truly have thrived in virtual learning," said Onijala. 

"And because of their circumstances or unique situations, this would continue to be a really good option for them."

Onijala said, the school system is moving forward with the option for the next school year and will be sending out a survey next week to gauge and understand who needs it the most and is eligible to apply.

Ayesha also checked with some other school districts in the DMV to see if they are offering a similar option for the next school year. 

Lucy Caldwell with Fairfax County Public Schools said that virtual options for the fall school year will be very limited because the schools system believes that students learn best when in-person.