Gaithersburg, MD

MCPS Provides a Sneak Peek into the Virtual Academy Offering for Fall 2021

Heather Jauquet

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Photo by Maria Thalassinou on Unsplash

As the current school year enters its fourth quarter, MCPS has given its community a sneak peek into a Virtual Academy offering beginning Fall 2021.

It has become apparent that there is a subset of students who have thrived in a virtual learning environment. Teachers have shared that online school has offered a different learning environment for students that have allowed them to participate in such a way that they would not have or did not do before. Teachers have also revealed there are fewer situations of bullying and students feel more comfortable participating either via chats, slides, or breakout rooms.

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Students who have thrived in an online learning experience:

  • Could focus on their work
  • Had the flexibility towards a schedule that worked best for them and to access the curriculum during non-traditional school hours
  • Are students who could not return to the school building due to a health condition.

In response to a community inquiry and seeing specific students flourish in a virtual environment, MCPS is offering a Virtual academy that will be a complimentary program that does not compete with the standard brick and mortar school. Dr. Trenkamp, Director of the Department of Technology and Integrations and Support, emphasized that the Virtual Academy is not the same as remote learning.

The Virtual Academy will come with its own set of teachers who will be available for live/synchronous learning. They will be leveraging content and curriculum meant for a virtual space versus using traditional materials and resources and shoehorning it into a virtual instruction. It will be a rigorous program that meets the full year content and curriculum requirements. Every content offered in brick and mortar schools will be offered in the Virtual Academy. For high schools, it has the added benefit of providing more flexibility by increasing access to specialized classes where students from multiple schools can access the same course.

Those students who chose to attend the Virtual Academy will also be enrolled in their home allowing them to stay connected for support services and extracurricular activities.

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The elementary program will be fully synchronous where students will engage with their class and with their teacher a full 5 days a week.

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The middle school program will be a comprehensive program maintaining the rotating block of A/B days that schools have put in place during this year’s remote learning. It also looks to expand instructional minutes.

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The high school program will have both part-time and full-time options. For Juniors and Seniors who have an abbreviated schedule and are working, participating in internships, or taking classes at Montgomery College, there will be AM, PM, and evening blocks. High School students will be able to take courses through those blocks of time. Live instruction will also be available through evening blocks.

The Virtual Academy website will go live on the MCPS website later this week. MCPS will be launching a no commitment interest survey so that they can begin making decisions about the program, hiring, and courses offered. The application process for the Virtual Academy will be launch in May.

In repose to the presentation, Board Member Mrs. O’Neill commented that it was a perfect option for students who have health conditions such as cancer or undergoing surgeries that do not allow them to attend school in person.

Perfect option for children undergoing cancer treatment and surgeries--Board Member, Patricia O'Neill

For parents who are saying to open schools 100% next year and to criticize the opening of the Virtual Academy, it is important to note that this provides another CHOICE for students and families who need flexibility in accessing the curriculum.

What are your thoughts? Should be MCPS offer a Virtual Academy program? Let me know in the comments!

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Certified educator K-12 and Reading Specialist with a focus on the adolescent brain. I write about how educational decisions affect parents, students, and staff. As an educator and parent I also focus on community events for the whole family.

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