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Chicago Public Schools introduced their Virtual Academy academy this year as a remote option for “medically fragile” students. Plans for next year include relaxing admissions guidelines and increase access to advanced coursework in its Virtual Academy. They will now be considering whether student applicants have a medical condition documented in their Individualized Education Program or 504 plan, as well as the recommendation of a medical professional. More about it below:

About the program

  • Parents of children enrolled in the academy are grateful the option was available.
  • Studemts were able to limit exposure to the coronavirus.
  • Program staff believes they have a good plan for the future.
  • Despite some expected deficits, it is a good option high risk students.

Current enrollment criteria

  • Grades prekindergarten-12th grade
  • Medical condition such as leukemia, spina bifida or cystic fibrosis.
  • Children with asthma, diabetes, heart disease or other ailments could be admitted if their attendance suffered the prior year.

The interest

  • CPS identified 4,265 students last year who qualified for the Virtual Academy
  • Received more than 700 applications.
  • At least 200 students were denied admission.
  • Around 450 students were enrolled in the Virtual Academy.

The experience

  • Initially chaotic because staffing of their virtual classroom was inconsistent.
  • Curriculum was slow.
  • Virtual Academy was a better option than students missing out on instruction due to illness or explosure.
  • Praise for the program’s teachers and administration for their flexibility.

Future plan

  • For fall entry, the Virtual Academy is ditching its list of required ailments.
  • Students are eligible if they have a medical condition documented in their Individualized Education Program or 504 plan and a medical professional recommending remote learning as the best option for them.
  • Some parents have repeatedly called on CPS to open access to the Virtual Academy to everyone.
  • Virtual Academy is partnering with CPS high schools to increase access to advanced placement and dual credit courses for the coming school year, while elementary schools will have access to virtual middle school Spanish and algebra lessons.

What’s still desired

  • More virtual academies from which to chose.
  • Emphasis on physical activity more in its schedule.
  • Personal interaction with peers.

There is no perfect solution, but this Virtual Academy proved to be the best option for some students during the pandemi, including the medically fragile. Some who are able and comfortable doing so will return to traditional schools, while others who did well remotely will continue.


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