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New York has announced that it will be launching two ‘full-time’ virtual schools as part of the solution to high rates of chronic absenteeism and re-engaging students in the wake of pandemic disruption. Schools Chancellor, David Banks, stated, “’I believe that virtual learning is here to stay whether or not we have a pandemic”. Here’s what went into it:

The plan

  • Creating separate virtual schools may help overcome one of the key problems with virtual learning during the pandemic: The task fell to individual schools to figure out how to simultaneously staff in-person and remote classrooms.
  • Standalone virtual schools that rely on separate teaching staff would ease that burden.
  • Students should be “exposed to the best teaching, the best experiences all over the world.”
  • Banks is interested in creating more permanent virtual learning options, even as the city has required all students to attend in person this school year.
  • A virtual model would likely appeal to parents who have lingering fears about the virus or whose children preferred remote instruction. It may also appeal to families whose children have more significant medical issues that make them vulnerable to COVID or other illnesses.
  • Many details are unclear about the new virtual schools, including which grades will be served, when they would start, or who would staff the program.

Potential problems

  • If students are allowed to enroll in separate virtual schools, that could create headaches for some schools and district leaders.
  • Depending on the number of students who are allowed to enroll, the virtual schools could exacerbate enrollment problems at brick-and-mortar campuses, potentially redirecting funding from some campuses and creating more pressure to consolidate or close them.

Other virtual programs

  • Some districts across the country ran virtual programs before the pandemic. 
    • Denver previously offered a virtual high school option and has since expanded to cover other grades.
    • Philadelphia and Detroit created virtual academies during the pandemic.
    • Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest school district behind New York City, plans to launch new virtual schools this fall.
    • Some districts separated virtual academies from their regular schools, there tended to be less interest in them in part because there were fewer opportunities to interact with their classmates and teachers.
    • New York City experimented with remote learning on a small scale, including a pilot program intended to expand access to advanced coursework for students attending 15 schools in the Bronx. It ran into serious technical difficulties, and some teachers struggled to connect with students they had never met in person.

Hope for NYC virtual schools

  • The previous administration failed to create a virtual teaching strategy.
  • Virtual programs could prove useful by giving students access to a broader range of courses, or helping those who have struggled in traditional schools.
  • Being able to successfully learn online is going to be an ongoing part of what it means to be a student, what it means to be a worker, what it means to be civically engaged in society.
  • The DOE is 100% capable of doing this well.

Quotes and more HERE

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