Townsend, school officials answer virtual questions

Dragon's Corner, Education, News
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School officials answer questions about the new Pickens County Virtual Academy.

Parents turned out to learn about the virtual academy Pickens County Schools is offering for students. The platform is through Pearson Connexus, which offers services for 80,000 students across the country. The school system hosted a Zoom meeting with parents and Pearson representatives to see the platform and learn how students and parents would access it.

More than 50 parents attended and several brought many questions about curriculum, students with Individual Education Plans or IEPs and 504 plans, and attendance. Rick Townsend, superintendant of Pickens County Schools, said they are working to get all questions answered.

TRENDING: Read the back to school plan here.

Virtual vs. Distance

Anita Walker, Director of Curriculum, said there will be a difference between the virtual academy and distance learning and it’s a difference parents need to understand.

“In the spring, we did distance learning. What we are doing here is the Pickens Virtual School. There will be one teacher working with several students across different grades,” she said.

Should the school district experience a second wave and becomes labeled as significant, then students attending as traditional students-those in a physical classroom–will revert to Distance Learning.

“With distance learning, they will be with their regular teacher and that teacher will be the one assigning lesson,” said Walker. “Those in the virtual academy won’t be affected, they will just continue to do what they are doing.”

Time in class

Several parents asked about how many hours an elementary student would spend online doing school work.

Audrey Harrell, with Pearson Connexus, said it’s a question she doesn’t like to answer.

“It really depends on the student,” she said. “The program isn’t just click, click, click, there is engaging material. Still, some students will fly through it and others will need more support,” she said.

Pearson is flexible so while students should sign in and work everyday, when they sign in is up to the student and parents.

Townsend said they are working to determine the best way to track attendance.

As far as the amount of on-line school work versus off-line school work, elementary students will have about 40-50-percent of their school work online. The remainder will be consist of physical activity or hands-on learning using easily available materials.

Middle school students can expect about 60-percent of their classwork to be online and high school, about 90-percent online.

School calendar

The school will set up the calendar for the students based on the traditional school calendar, so there would not be classes when the schools are on break, but students can work ahead, said Harrell.

Dual Enrollment

Townsend said this will be an option for students in the virtual academy.

Students with IEPs, 504 or gifted

The virtual academy is available to all students, although Townsend encourages parents of students who have an IEP or 504 plan to meet with their students’ team to discuss which option would be best.

Harrell said Pearson offers handicap accessible abilities, including text-to-highlighted-speech, interpretation in five languages

The following answer appeared in the ongoing chat section of the meeting:

“From kristybone to Everyone:  07:10 PM

IEP and 504 meetings will be scheduled for all students who choose the virtual model.  Teams will consider each student’s individual needs and create plans to best address the specialized instruction and supports needed in the virtual model. Parents and students will obtain specific information during these meetings.”

Students needing more academically challenging material can get with the school to set up an appropriate schedule.

Walker encouraged parents to check the website, where answers will be posted or to call the school system at 706-253-1700.

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