Officials at Daviess County Public Schools have selected Chad Alward to be the director of the district’s new Virtual Academy.

As part of the district’s reopening plan during the worldwide pandemic, DCPS officials recently announced they would offer parents the Virtual Academy option.

The academy is a completely separate school, apart from the Integrated Instructional Model that provides varying degrees of in-person learning. Virtual Academy is an online-only approach for students for the semester.

It is not like the NTI of the past. Instead, it will provide a set schedule for students to log in and have real-time school with daily, digital lessons.

Preschool students are not eligible to attend the Virtual Academy.

Also, district officials don’t recommend that option for students in kindergarten through second grade; however, DCPS officials feel that is a decision families must make.

Alward will be responsible for the Virtual Academy program for kindergarten through eighth grade, and he will coordinate with high school virtual learning programs.

He brings a strong background in the areas of academic instruction, educational leadership and technology to his new role. He has served as assistant principal at Daviess County High School for seven years, working closely with faculty to provide instructional technology support.

During his career, he has taught at the elementary and high school levels. Also, he oversaw instructional technology for Ohio County Public Schools and served as Deer Park Elementary School’s principal.

Alward said he isn’t familiar with any other district in the state that is offering a Virtual Academy option.

He looks forward to the challenges and opportunities.

Because students aren’t in a traditional classroom setting, relationships will be one of the biggest challenges, Alward said.

“We will spend a lot of time focusing on relationships,” he said.

Also, it will be important to keep students connected to their primary schools, teachers and counselors.

Keeping kids actively engaged will be another focus area.

“Our plan is to really focus on content and media-rich lessons,” Alward said.

Along with challenges, he expects lots of opportunities.

“Many students may work better online,” Alward said.

Students will be encouraged to provide feedback, solve problems and become more active in their education.

The district is breaking new ground with the Virtual Academy, Alward said. He expects DCPS to set the bar of excellence and to find new ways of incorporating online learning into the classrooms of the future.

“I don’t look at this as a one-time thing,” Alward said.

Currently, DCPS families are deciding whether they want their children to begin the upcoming school year in the classroom or the Virtual Academy, so Alward doesn’t know how many students may opt for the online-only program.

Jana Beth Francis, DCPS assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said the district is fortunate to have Alward’s expertise for this new role.

“He has the leadership experience to work with the virtual teachers on creating a high-quality learning environment for students in the Virtual Academy, as well as the technology know-how to navigate the challenges that we know will come with our first Virtual Academy,” Francis said. “Most importantly, Chad Alward has the aptitude needed to build a warm and caring community in the virtual world. I’m thrilled to have Chad on our team.”

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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