The dog days of summer can be intolerable in the south, but with it brings the idea of cooler temperatures rounding the corner, pumpkin spice everything and the beginning of school.

This school year, some parents may not have to take that ‘out of town’ trip for school clothes or begin the search for a school supply list as virtual options are becoming a popular trend due to COVID-19 concerns.

Throughout various social media platforms, parents are beginning to ask who will be sending their kids back to school in the fall, what are the virtual options and how will this all work with extracurricular activities.

The school districts in Independence County are working diligently to help parents with these daunting questions with solutions that are available for most students.

The Southside School District has been serving families with their Virtual Academy for three years, according to Superintendent Roger Rich.

“We had approximately 20 students enrolled in a virtual option for all of last school year,” Rich stated. “We have been in conversations with our families since late spring about options for the fall. We have visited individually with each parent that answered our survey or inquired about possible virtual options. We are ready to provide whatever option is in the best interest of our students and families.”

The Batesville School District is letting students choose a curriculum that will best suite them with as much ease as possible through the Pioneer Virtual Academy (PVA).

During the school’s weekly Facebook/YouTube live stream, Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Douglas and Pioneer Virtual Academy Coordinator Lisa Barber took time to explain the options that students will have once school begins.

One of the first things, Douglas explained was the term “blended learning”, which is a style of education in which students learn via electronic and online media as well as traditional face-to-face teaching.

“There has been a lot of confusion this day and age about all of the options that are out there,” Douglas stated. “All of our students have access to this type of teaching with the use of our One on One Chromebook Initiative, G-Suite, Edgenuity and Study Island along with the other teaching platforms that we have.”

Douglas went on to explain that teachers use those platforms to supplement their day-to-day teaching everyday when school is in session.

Barber explained options with the PVA beginning with Kindergarten through fifth grade.

“Students who sign up for PVA will be assigned a Batesville School District teacher,” Barber stated. “That teacher will mentor, monitor and make sure they are making progress in their courses. If they are in grades K-2, that BSD teacher will instruct them in reading, phonics and phonemic awareness.”

Average class times for each subject would range from 30 to 60 minutes for language arts, reading, social studies and science, according to Barber.

Other options are available for sixth through twelfth grade students with remote learning and strictly virtual.

Remote learning students will have a regular classroom schedule through the district and the student will be expected to join that class at the regular time through Google Meet.

“We will use the Google platform, and they would use Google Classroom to turn in their assignments,” Barber explained. “Basically do everything that the class is doing on campus.”

Barber also stated that the district has added a new aspect to remote learning by letting the student attend the class in person if they wanted.

“If they want to come two days a week to the class and the rest at home, that will be fine.” she said. “We are going to be very flexible.”

Strictly virtual learning will be assigned Edgenuity courses and self paced. The school district will be able to monitor the students to ensure they are making sufficient progress, according to Barber.

If a student decides that remote learning or virtual doesn’t work for them, will that student have the ability to attend classes on campus instead.

“The answer to this is yes,” Douglas explained. “We will encourage students to make this transition at nine weeks or at the semester intervals, but we also want to be as flexible as possible. We understand that there will be special circumstances where PVA isn’t a fit for some, and that student can work with Mrs. Barber and the campus principal for a solution.”

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