ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — Roanoke County Public Schools’ instructors are now looking at how homeschooled students in Roanoke County could benefit from rejoining the mainstream school system, free of charge.
There are currently three options for students heading back to school in the Roanoke County Public Schools district.
The first is the blended model for third through 12th-grade students, combining in-classroom instruction for two days per week, with virtual learning.
RCPS Online targets kindergarten through 12th-grade students. This second option will provide a five day per week curriculum completely online, free of charge. Students who choose this option would be able to switch to the blended model at any point during the school year, as the curriculum is aligned with in-classroom teaching.
The blended and online models were built to work together, to give students, schools, and parents some flexibility when it comes to adapting with ever-changing guidelines. Students impacted in some way by COVID-19 could switch from being in the classroom two days a week to being online if needed and vice versa, as long as there is space in the classroom and conditions will allow for it.
The final option, specifically for high school students, involves the RCPS Online Academy. This model would require students to work remotely at their own pace for the entire school year.
Joe LeGault, the supervisor of RCPS Online, described how the district’s new curriculum came about: “We have had dedicated online learning and developed our own courses using our own teachers following best practice, you know, and national standards, to build these courses out.”
School officials say by opening up their curriculum and adding more options, parents who have been homeschooling could potentially rejoin the school district. Students learning remotely would also receive a laptop, and other resources to help students complete their work. By enrolling in the online academy, high school students would get to play sports for RCPS, and upon completion, would receive a diploma from the school associated with their address.
This allows for more scholarship opportunities, as well as recruitment opportunities for high performing athletes who in the past have had to join private leagues. Faculty say they have been working to make sure all courses meet NCAA standards.
“They can be in RCPS Academy Online full-time and play a high school sport. We can’t cross boundaries,” LeGault confirmed. “If you’re in a particular zip code and you fall on a street that goes to a particular high school, that’s the one you’re attached to, that’s where you would play your sports.”
Some parents are apprehensive of the constantly changing plans for the school year caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Sarah Stasik’s five-year-old son would have been a kindergartner this year, but she is choosing to homeschool.
Stasik stated, “Because of COVID and the many changes they’re going to have to institute, we didn’t want that to be his first introduction into school.”
She and her husband have already submitted the paperwork to Roanoke County’s Public School district.
“We didn’t want to be in that involved in that what are we doing tomorrow, what are we doing next week, how’s it going to change three months from now, especially because he’s five-years-old.”
Currently, more than 2,400 students are already enrolled in an online curriculum, and that number is growing. RCPS has been developing its online program for about 16 years. In total, around 60 subjects are offered completely online, and about 30 new subjects have been added this year. Last year, 563 classes were offered last year online, but this year, that number has tripled, with 1,470 classes set to be offered, but that number is growing.
LeGault says there is no right or wrong answer.
“We know that education is a deeply personal decision for families, and we’re just committed to giving options,” LeGault explained.
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