‘Henrico Virtual Academy’ set to roll out Fall 2021

The HCPS Superintendent plans to present the vision for the first "Henrico Virtual Academy" on...
The HCPS Superintendent plans to present the vision for the first "Henrico Virtual Academy" on Thursday.(HCPS)
Updated: Apr. 22, 2021 at 5:48 PM EDT
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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) announcing the creation of “Henrico Virtual Academy” set to open in Fall 2021.

During Thursday’s HCPS work session, the vision of the K-12 virtual academy was introduced to the school board.

“Staff has received feedback from stakeholders that shared both ongoing challenges and areas of success in the virtual learning space,” a description reads. “While virtual learning is not the optimal environment for every student, it is an environment where some learners are thriving.”

Students would learn in both synchronous and asynchronous methods, like the way virtual learning is done currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they would be required to have their cameras on and interacting during the lesson.

Additionally, teachers would be solely dedicated to teaching online, unlike what some are doing right now in the hybrid format.

“It doesn’t leave the classroom teacher running two kinds of classrooms at once,” said Superintendent Dr. Amy Cashwell. “That would be the prominent difference where we think we can really leverage the best practices in virtual learning for this purpose and the best practices for in-person learning for the other.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed virtual learning to the forefront, school leaders said this academy is something they were discussing pre-pandemic.

“Knowing there is going to be variety is so important,” said Three Chopt District board member Micky Ogburn.

“We’ve seen families leave to find these options for a fully virtual program, privately,” Cashwell said. “We knew this was something there was a demand for and would meet the needs of students we were not currently able to meet.”

The school system is asking families for a one-year commitment to this virtual academy.

However, staff said the feedback from current students and faculty is what will help shape the HVA.

“So as we continue to round out this unprecedented academic year, taking the feedback from our students - their feedback will be a key component of the data we use to inform what adjustments we need to make to the virtual space,” said Kourtney Bostain, Director of Teaching, Learning and Innovation.

Course offerings would be similar to what students receive in the classroom as well.

  • Elementary: Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies, Library, Art, Music, Health and Physical Education
  • Secondary: English, Math, Science, Social Studies, World Languages, Health and Physical Education, Fine Arts and CTE

Specialty programs will also be offered, along with opportunities to enroll in other specialty schools.

Meanwhile, students in the HVA will be able to participate in extra-curricular activities and sports - those would be offered through their zoned schools.

There is no plan to limit the number of students at this time for the virtual academy, but HCPS is asking families to use a self-assessment tool to find out if this option works best for them.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how long the list is,” Ogburn said.

Any student living in Henrico County is able to apply. Applications for the academy are expected to open in May with a closure date sometime in June.

Meanwhile, Henrico Schools announced Wednesday the plan for a return to five days a week of fully in-person learning in the fall.

“As the Henrico School Board discussed at its March 11 meeting, barring unforeseen circumstances, most HCPS students will attend classes in HCPS buildings when the 2021-22 school year begins Wednesday, Sept. 8,” a press release said.

School leaders said HCPS will continue to follow the latest health and safety guidance at that time which is still expected to include mask-wearing, physical distancing, etc.

The in-person school day would also return to the traditional arrival and dismissal times for a full-length instructional day.

The application window to enroll in the virtual academy will close on May 21.

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