NORTH LITTLE ROCK – The North Little Rock School District is looking to outsource its Virtual Learning Academy this coming school year to allow teachers to focus on teaching in-person.
Brouke Reynolds, acting virtual director, and LeAnn Alexander, executive director of special services, updated the school board Thursday evening on the implementation plan for the Virtual Learning Academy 2.0 program.
The plan includes payment of $ 649,609 to allow Pearson School Services Company to take over the district’s virtual academy. The payment would allow the virtual academy to enroll 191 students at $ 3,399 per student along with the required administrator training.
If approved, the school district will use state-licensed teachers and a curriculum provided by Pearson, a provider approved by the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education for students.
The virtual academy was established last year during the coronavirus pandemic, and officials have said some students are thriving in the environment. This led to school officials asking the academy to continue.
The problem that arose was that the virtual academy was taught by teachers who also had to teach in person.
“We have heard from our leaders that our teachers are at risk of burnout,” Superintendent Gregory Pilewski said at Thursday’s meeting.
The Pearson Connexus Education Management System platform will be used by students to access online programs, live instructions, view recorded instructions, access lessons and hand in homework.
Pearson teachers will provide live synchronous lessons and asynchronous lessons using recorded video instructions. Students will also be able to contact their teacher and request additional interaction for one-on-one assistance if needed.
The school district will provide each student with a Chromebook owned and managed by the district. The student’s home school will provide the laptop.
Hot spots will be provided by the school district for families requiring an internet connection for classroom work. The technology department has also set up an exclusive e-mail service for students of the virtual program.
The Pearson management system is accessible 24 hours a day from any Internet connection.
The school day will also be different this year for virtual students.
Student schedules are customized to suit their needs while students are enrolled and assigned to their home school.
Students will be able to complete their assignments at their own pace, while staying academically focused with progress tracking by the director of the district virtual academy.
“For example, if [students] want to spend time during the day and they’ve decided they work better at night then they can do it, ”Reynolds said. “This program allows them to work when they are at their best. They might not be at their best at 8 a.m., but they’re best at 8 p.m.
Students will be required to complete lessons and learning tasks assigned by a teacher.
“Homework is checked weekly,” Reynolds said.
The virtual academy will also use district counselors to perform weekly virtual student welfare checks. Counselors can determine if a student needs additional mental health support or therapy services.
“It’s really important because these students won’t be on campus to use the on-site counselors,” Alexander said.
The virtual academy director can determine if a student needs additional support and schedule an appointment with a teacher and Pearson student for one-on-one assistance. At the end of the nine weeks, if a student falls below a “C” average and / or has six or more absences, a parent conference will be held to determine whether the student should remain a distance learner or return to school. the campus.
Students interested in a vocational or technical training course that is not offered in the virtual program may choose to attend this course on campus. Students must provide their own transportation to class.
Virtual students will also be able to participate in activities sanctioned by the Arkansas Activities Association. This includes sports, group and other extracurricular activities.
Weekly food pickups will be available for any virtual student who requests a box lunch. The school district social worker can help virtual families in need of additional food and clothing.
Students will need to show up on site to take tests such as ACT, Aspire and assessments.
Reynolds said officials plan to seek final approval from the school board on July 1 and then have information meetings with parents July 12-26 on the virtual academy. She said there will also be a parent / student orientation session with Pearson and school district officials in August.