CLEVELAND — As families gear up for another school year, some students may not be heading back to the classroom. Instead, they may be opting to continue learning virtually.
School districts across Northeast Ohio have varying approaches to online learning.
The Parma City School District launched the Parma Virtual Learning Academy, PVLA, last school year and is continuing it for the 2021-2022 school year. It's a 100% remote option for students.
“It's really it's a separate entity. It's its own school, essentially," said Parma's superintendent, Charles Smialek. "While some school districts may be streaming or some other type of online platform, our teachers are assigned to PVLA. Our teachers will focus on their classes that are assigned through our system and have their own classes and run their own programs for students who feel like they learn better from home for any number of reasons."
Currently, the program is full with approximately 275 students.
Smialek said this is a program they've aimed to launched for several years. Every year the district loses about 110-120 students to online charter schools and school leaders felt PVLA would bring students back to the district.
"We want to make sure that we can offer any type of education that our students and our families in our communities need," said Smialek. "PVLA offers a cadre of teachers that have really invested in professional development to make sure that they're not just the sort of the sit and get online, but really interacting, engaging with students.
Hope and Allison Juhasz are two students enrolled in PVLA. Both girls, entering 9th grade, opted for the program last school year. They liked it so much they've chosen to learn virtually once again this year.
"It was easier because there were fewer distractions than there would be in school," said Hope.
"You got more out of what the teacher was saying versus in class," Allison said.
Their mom, Karen, said she was pleased with their progress last school year and is thrilled for another year of learning at home.
"They excelled last year. Both made highest honors. I couldn’t ask for more," said said.
Smialek said he believes PVLA is built to last.
"We've applied for a pilot program through the state of Ohio, so this is something where we have a little bit of leeway to kind of create our own confines and our own parameters here," he said. "We want to do the best we can to connect with our kids and ultimately our parents to form the best model that works for our kids.
Meanwhile, drive about a half-hour east, students in the Twinsburg School District have a much different option for learning virtually.
Superintendent Kathi Powers said students who wish to continue their online learning will have to meet certain criteria.
"We still, in the middle of a pandemic, have the duty to make sure students learn and succeed and are ready to do the maximum to graduate high school," she said.
Students in the district will not qualify for online learning if:
- 72 or more hours of absence without an excuse during the 2020-21 school year
- Students who have been absent two or more days per month for nine months during the 2020-21 school year
- D’s or F’s in two or more subjects during 2 or more quarters
- Grades lowered by 2 letter grades in 2 or more subjects for 2 or more quarters
Powers said other extenuating circumstances will be considered by the school principal if families qualify. While the option is here, she also said more than 95% of families who responded to a survey wanted their child back on campus for this school year.
Several districts like Akron, Berea, Euclid and Cleveland plan to partner with the Ohio Online Learning Platform. It's a fully virtual online program that school districts can purchase for their students in grades K-12. Students who opt for this program can still participate in sports and extracurricular activities in their home district.