Owensboro Public Schools unveiled its virtual school option Thursday during its regular board luncheon at central office.

The OPS Virtual Academy is an option for parents or guardians who do not want to place their student back into an in-person, traditional school setting in August when the 2020-21 school year begins.

This option will be available to students in kindergarten through 12th grade, but OPS Superintendent Matthew Constant did not recommend it for students in grade kindergarten through second grade.

He also said this will not be an option for incoming preschool students.

“We just feel like those young learners need to be in our buildings if at all possible,” Constant said.

Laptops will be provided to all students in grades three through 12, as they will be a requirement for the Virtual Academy, as it will be implemented differently than non-traditional instruction.

Previously with NTI, a lot of paper packets were sent out to students, and they were more of a review of already-taught lessons. The Virtual Academy will be new core content being taught for students, and those interested in signing up need to be aware it is a semester-long commitment, Constant said.

The district plans to utilize third party software it already uses at its alternative high school, Emerson Academy. This program allows students to work at their own pace toward Kentucky-credited courses. Staff members and teachers will be assigned to monitor student progress, and it will be important for students to work each day at their assignments, Constant said.

“We are going to hold their feet to the fire, and expect students to do the work,” he said.

Options are also available for students in special education classes, or students with individualize education plans.

Each student enrolled in the Virtual Academy will also have access to all school-based services, including meals, mental health services, and anything offered by the family resource youth service centers, Constant said.

An “Intent to Register” form has been made public for all parents or guardians interested in signing their student up for the Virtual Academy. It was sent electronically and has been shared across the OPS social media platforms. The district will be accepting registration for 10 days.

After that, Constant said, he and other district officials will be able to more easily gauge what the district’s reopening plan will look like. It’s important for them to get an accurate count of how many students they should expect to be in classrooms.

He also said the goal is for a reopening plan to be in front of board of education members by the next meeting July 23.

“What about high school students who attend colleges for classes?” asked board chairman Jeremy Edge.

Constant said those students should still be able to attend their regularly-scheduled dual-credit courses while also enrolled in the Virtual Academy.

Board Member Michael Johnson inquired as to whether or not the Virtual Academy will have administrative leadership, and Constant said it depends on how many students sign up.

“If we have a large number sign up, like 15% of our student population, we will need some administrative structure,” Constant said. “It just depends on the number.”

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

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