The Virtual Academy (VA), staffed by SMCPS teachers, administration, and support staff, is established for grades 3–12 who would benefit from a fully virtual-only learning solution. The VA is designed for students who demonstrated academic success during virtual instruction, with organizational and independent skills strengths. We strongly recommend that a parent or another responsible adult be available at home to provide age- and ability-appropriate assistance and supervision to the student. After committing to a full year (2021–2022) and registering for the VA, students will participate in blended learning, including synchronous and asynchronous experiences.
The VA will offer Advanced, Specialized, and EL services within the SMCPS Virtual Academy. However, Individualized Educational Plans (IEP) are written for in-person instruction. It is recognized that Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) provisions may preclude enrollment due to the student's degree and type of service requirements. Some student support services may not be able to be administered with fidelity in a virtual environment.
Information in virtual courses is presented in different ways as compared to traditional schools. Virtual learning requires very different skills compared to the way students learn in a brick-and-mortar school. Students enrolled in the VA receive instruction in multiple capacities. Students will be required to read information on a computer screen, tablet, or smartphone, watch online videos or animated presentations, complete exercises in proprietary online programs, interact with different software programs, or write their ideas in a discussion thread or virtual small group meeting. Therefore, enrolling students with disabilities in virtual schools has significant implications for parents because parent engagement is much more involved in supporting their child's learning through these activities than in a brick-and-mortar setting.
Parents must determine to what extent their child can learn independently because their child's independence will significantly affect their level of engagement. Parents might be asked to do such things to help children:
- Set goals.
- Connect with and discuss the content.
- Practice with the material, and understand mistakes.
The less independent the child is as a learner, the more time and energy the parent will spend in instructional activities. Students in virtual schools usually engage with assignment content and directions through reading, but many students with disabilities struggle with reading. This approach means parents may need to offer reading support, teaching content, and help students understand how to complete the assignments. An important consideration is for parents to consider their child's reading abilities to determine the amount and types of support their child may need to meet the reading demands.