After being forced to experiment with remote learning during the pandemic, the Fulton County School System is proposing to open a permanent “virtual school” in the 2021-2022 year.
Experiences in the pandemic show Fulton County Schools (FCS) officials that demand exists from students and parents for remote learning, so the school district responded with a proposal to open a virtual school starting in the 2021-2022 school year.
The Fulton County Board of Education is expected to consider an initial $200,000 in funding for planning and operations of the virtual school at its Dec. 10 meeting.
The remote-learning experience this year showed a demand for the service to continue, officials said at a Dec. 2 school board meeting.
Gyimah Whitaker, FCS’s deputy chief academic officer, said the virtual school would enroll up to 1,000 students in grades 3 through 11. Grade 12 would be added in the second year as the junior class advanced.
FCS expects the 1,000 students would include 180 from elementary school, 270 from middle school and 550 from high school.
Whitaker said the virtual school builds on lessons from remote learning, STEM schools and Blended Campus, along with visits and discussions with other districts’ virtual schools.
Officials proposed starting with grade 3 because by that grade students can read and comprehend material on their own. Whitaker said the virtual school would increase the district’s portfolio of schools and use the FCS Virtual Instructional Framework. The second year’s remote learning model would be more robust.
What it would not do is enroll students in grades pre-K through 2, she said. Students would not get to participate in athletic or academic activities at their zoned school. Club sports and virtual academic clubs, such as STEM clubs and robotics teams would be allowed.
The school would open in August 2021, using a lottery-based admission by grade level.
The school name would be chosen following standard FCS policy, which includes public input. The student enrollment process would begin in February as the project team establishes the virtual school’s budget.
Teacher selection would take place in March and April, using the same system that FCS uses for traditional schools.
The Dec. 10 school board meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., with the “virtual school” funding to be considered under the agenda items for the fiscal year 2021 mid-year budget adjustments and school allotment guidelines. The meeting can be viewed virtually at fultonschools.org/fcstv.