Michigan is taking innovation by the horns. Accompanying all the current political talk around school choice, Detroit Public Schools Community District has launched a virtual school. It has not been easy for families enrolled in the full-time virtual school. Here’s how they are doing:
- Virtual learning has been part of student life since the pandemic began in 2020.
- Ahead of this school year, school officials were banking on the virtual option becoming a permanent fixture for students who thrive in the online space.
- The district also hoped the virtual school would accommodate families’ health and safety concerns.
- Families are finding that being enrolled in the district’s virtual school hasn’t always been easy.
- Parent concerns include
- virtual classrooms are too full
- some classes are not staffed consistently
- program hasn’t provided enough services for their children with special education needs
- missing electives and extracurriculars
- The virtual school has been received mixed reviews from parents.
- Some found it safer due to pandemic threats on their children’s health conditions.
- Some felt better supported in this environment.
- While others felt special learning accommodations and needs were not met well.
- Some of the educational, behavioral, and physical needs of particular students cannot be met in a virtual learning environment.
Future for the virtual school
- The district is considering limiting enrollment to grades 4-12 in the 2022-23 school year, as school officials have questioned whether the virtual school is the right space for early literacy in pre-kindergarten to third grade.
- District is “exploring the possibility of” advanced courses and more electives in the future.
- For the time being, the school will focus on its core classes and support for exceptional student education, or ESE, students.
- Other resources such as after-school tutoring, may be offered if teachers are willing to work after long days of screen time.
- Challenges school districts have faced so far with virtual learning are not damning nor are they unlike compliants received by traditional campuses during the pandemic.
- There’s a long road ahead for school district leaders to design and implement high quality online learning options that balance the flexibility of remote instruction with the academic standards of in-person learning.
- Good remote learning environment needs to be done with intentionality and based on research best practices.