The entire nation is prioritizing in-person instruction, that is the goal. However, the pandemic showed us that virtual learning is not only possible, but beneficial for some students and some settings. Many of our states are continuing to offer virtual learning options as a way to provide as many learning opportunities as possible and meet the needs and preferences of students and families. Hawaii is the latest to take on the same. The Hawaii DOE said it needs to offer an array of learning opportunities, including a virtual option. Get the details below:
Why Virtual Learning?
- Calls from students and parents for online learning rose sharply during the Covid-19 pandemic, driven largely by health and safety concerns.
- Other families said their kids did better in an online learning environment.
- Hawaii is among more than a dozen states that had not established a full virtual school for all students as of the 2019-20 school year
- Since the pandemic, the number of school districts in the U.S. offering virtual schools multiplied nine-fold.
- A virtual school would reduce the opportunity gap that currently exists as a result of the location and size of schools and increase equity in access to content that may not otherwise be available to them.
- Taking idea of a virtual school and exploring different ways in putting together a learning plan, or set of experiences that can be used to give credit for a high school diploma, even (workplace) industry certification.
- Some community advocates urged the DOE to be more flexible and offer virtual school for all kids in extenuating life or community circumstances to ensure that no student has to miss instruction for an extended period of time.
Hawaii’s Existing Online Programs
- In late July, just days before the start of the new school year, the DOE unveiled a statewide distance learning program to address families’ Covid safety concerns.
- A separate online Hawaiian language immersion program serves 88 students.
- Two Hawaii charter schools were already offering blended online and in-person instruction before the pandemic began.
- The DOE also offers a program called “e-school” which includes Advance Placement courses for high schoolers who want to take courses outside their home school area or to get a leg up on accumulating college credit.
- Some complex areas within Hawaii also independently established online-only programs this year.
The K-12 Virtual School Proposal
- The DOE was adamant about resuming in-person instruction for all students at the start of the school year in August.
- But in a memo promoting its idea for an all-virtual school, DOE said there was a “need to provide an array of educational opportunities to maximize learning for all students.”
- The plan called for spending $5.4 million in the 2022-23 school year to establish a virtual school that would serve roughly 774 students across the state.
- The school would be an expansion of an existing statewide distance learning program that was quickly assembled at the start of the 2021-22 academic year and currently enrolls 500 students.
- The Hawaii Board of Education acknowledged the need for a permanent virtual program, but it rejected a proposal by the state education department to establish a statewide virtual school for students in grades K-12, citing a lack of specificity in how the plan would be implemented.
- The DOE vision for an online school lacks data to support its $5.4 million funding request.
- Some members said they did not want this to be a rush job, citing the need to train teachers for these roles and put in place an online curriculum.
- The DOE plan wasn’t fully fleshed out, including lacking a projection for how many students the school could serve at full capacity, or an explanation of how it would expand existing online learning offerings.