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Virtual Academy Offers Students a Choice

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

Alex Guzman, senior, works to learn virtually at home. (Courtesy Photo)

By Emma Duncan--Eagle Staff Writer

As some students were just getting settled into this unconventional school year, those wanting to learn were offered one more avenue.

Starting next semester, a Virtual Academy will be offered in place of current virtual learning.

“It’s the exact same thing as current virtual learning, only reorganized more strategically for more conducive teaching and learning,” Principal Jon Crutchfield said.

The academy will be taught asynchronously, meaning without face-to-face instruction, by FCHS and Virtual Virginia teachers. Students can work at their own pace as long as work is turned in on time.

The goal is for FCHS teachers to teach all classes to every student. But this isn’t the case even in ‘normal’ times,” Crutchfield explained. “We often use Virtual Virginia to provide instruction for hard-to-fill classes. This will remain an option but only be used if an accepted student's schedule can’t be taught by our own existing staff.”

Having Virtual Virginia teaching classes along with campus staff allows for more classes to be included in the Virtual Academy. However, Pre-AP and Dual Enrollment classes, along with most electives, aren’t on the roster.

“The courses offered for Spring 2021 are ones most conducive to online learning at this time, Administrator Allyson Lynch said. “We hope to be able to expand our offerings in future semesters.”

Classes offered in the Virtual Academy are…

  • English: 9, 10, 11, and 12

  • Math: Algebra 1 and 2, AFDA, and Geometry

  • Science: Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry, Ecology, Astronomy, and Environmental Science

  • History: World History 1 and 2, VA/US History, US Government, and African American History

  • Spanish 1, 2, and 3

  • Econ/Personal Finance

  • Introduction to Leadership

  • Entrepreneurship

  • Health/PE 9 and 10

  • Psychology

While world language and Personal Finance are offered in the Academy, the other classes required for an Advanced Diploma cannot be taken through the Academy yet, meaning those wanting an Advanced Diploma will need to attend in-person classes next semester.

Furthermore, students enrolled in Pre-AP and/or Dual Enrollment classes second semester also couldn’t join the Academy, as those classes don’t have virtual teachers yet.

Some students don’t agree with this, as they believe no one should have to choose between success and safety.

“It really bothers me that Pre-AP classes aren’t in the Academy because I planned on getting an Advanced Diploma but needed to virtually learn,” Sophomore Kadance Mills said. “I don’t think it’s fair that now that’s being taken away because of a virus.”

Senior Alex Guzman agreed with Mills and believes these advanced classes could have been included.

“The only thing I can think of is that the school board doesn’t think advanced classes can be taught online. However, they’re already being taught virtually this semester,” Guzman said.

Administrator Amy Johnson tried to clear up this confusion.

We cannot continue to sustain the current virtual learning for two major reasons. One--staffing is limited, and Two--some classes are not conducive to online learning,” Johnson explained. “The offerings for the Virtual Academy next semester are for next semester only and will be re-evaluated for the 2021-2022 school year as we see that a virtual academy will be part of our pathway for years to come. We may find it necessary and appropriate to offer advanced classes in the future.”

To join the Virtual Academy, students had to apply by October 30. Both fully virtual and hybrid students could apply; however, not everyone was eligible to do so, as a reliable internet connection was needed. Even then, acceptance wasn’t guaranteed.

“In order to be accepted, students must pass at least 50% of their current classes,” Johnson added.

She went on to explain her hopes for the future of the Virtual Academy.

We recognize that we have several students who do not wish to attend traditional high school for various reasons. With virtual learning as a reality for us, we’re able to begin looking at ways to provide alternatives for those students,” Johnson stated. “We anticipate the Virtual Academy will continue and hope to add additional courses as needed and as staff allows."

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