DC-area school systems reveal more details about future ‘virtual academies’

Parents, teachers and nearly everyone else tied to education can’t wait to put virtual and hybrid-learning behind them and get back to the classroom on a regular basis again.

But at the same time, many school systems have come around on the idea that there are benefits to virtual instruction.

Now, D.C.-area school systems are releasing more details about their plans for new “virtual academies” that will begin this fall.

DC

D.C. public schools are offering a limited virtual option alongside plans for a full return to classrooms this fall. Billed as a “virtual academy,” the option will be available to students who have a medical need to remain in remote learning.

Families will need to present school officials with a completed form from their child’s doctor.

Anne Arundel County

Pending state approval, a virtual academy will be offered for students in grades 3 through 12. Applications are due by 5 p.m. June 10.

Students who are accepted must commit to a full school year in the program, which will be entirely online. There will be no in-person components: no instruction, clubs, activities or sports.

It will be a full-time, full school day commitment and students will be given both synchronous and asynchronous instruction in the program. Students will still participate in all county- and state-mandated assessments.

Otherwise, students will take regular classes offered to every other student, with the same teachers for each subject.

Charles County

The virtual academy will be offered for high school students and is an extension of the services offered through the Charles County Public Schools in-person high school program.

The program is geared toward juniors wishing to graduate early, seniors who need four or fewer credits, students with school anxiety, students who require a flexible schedule and any student who prefers a nontraditional school setting.

Students must have 15 or fewer school absences on their records and at least a 2.0 GPA.

The academy will be open Mondays through Thursdays and full-time students in the program must agree to remain in the program for the completion of the 2021 to 2022 school year. They can transfer back to their home schools in fall of 2022.

Students attending virtual program full-time are not eligible to participate in sports or extracurricular activities at their home schools.

Howard County

The Digital Education Center program will give students K-12 the option to take classes and earn credits virtually. The students enrolled in the virtual program will continue to be enrolled in their designated “home-school” and will be able to participate in athletics and activities at that school.

The program will give students the option to access real-time instruction and digital assignments while receiving support services from the student’s district home-school.

Student must commit to the virtual program for the entire 2021 to 2022 school year to participate.

The program is currently in the planning and design phase.

The priority commitment period for the virtual program closed on May 5. Families who are interested in the program will have the opportunity to participate if space is available after final budget approval.

Montgomery County

A virtual academy option will be available to students in grades K through 12, who can prove they or a family member have certain health issues that will qualify for the program.

The school system’s website includes basic information about the plan for full-time virtual learning starting in the fall, including a link on how to enroll. Applications are being accepted via email and in person, and the deadline for applications is July 2.

Get more information.

Prince George’s County

Students in Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public Schools will be back in classrooms in the fall after a year of virtual and hybrid learning, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Hybrid instruction will be discontinued in line with guidance from the Maryland State Department of Education and state school board of education,” said Monica Goldson, chief executive officer of the school system, in a YouTube video to the school community.

Full-time, in-person classes will be available to students from prekindergarten through 12th grade, five days a week, under a pre-pandemic school schedule.

Children in kindergarten through sixth grade who are not eligible for a vaccine will have a limited, application-based virtual learning option. And students who can’t return to school due to medical conditions may apply for Home and Hospital Teaching services.

Get more information.

Editor’s note: Continue to check back as this story is updated with additional counties.

WTOP’s Colleen Kelleher and Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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