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Wednesday, October 5, 2022
ArlingtonEducationNumber of Arlington students staying 'virtual' set to plunge

Number of Arlington students staying ‘virtual’ set to plunge

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The number of Arlington Public Schools students using the “virtual-learning” option for the coming school year will be down more than 90 percent from last year, according to new figures, owing largely in a change to how online learning is being delivered.

There were 533 students in the school system’s “VLP” (Virtual Learning Program) at the end of the 2021-22 school year, representing a little less than 3 percent of the total student body. That program has been put on hold for the 2022-23 school year, with students given the option of enrolling in the state government’s Virtual Virginia K-12 program.

The families of 36 students applied for participation in the program, with 29 providing required medical certification and being approved, Kimberley Graves, chief of school support for the county school system, told School Board members on Aug. 4.

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The remaining 504 students either will head back to their home school, have moved out of the area or have transferred out of the school system, Graves said.

The online Virtual Virginia program is run by the state government, but school districts are required to provide support personnel for mentoring and to augment classwork. School leaders plan to provide school lunches to families that request it – details of that are still being worked out – and students will have access to some of the programs, such as extracurriculars, at their home schools.

Graves said staff at individual schools have reached out to families of those students who had been in the VLP last year but are returning to classes this year, and the goal for all students is “a smooth transition” from 2021-22 to 2022-23 no matter the instruction method.

VLP was instituted at the start of the 2021-22 school year and had a calamitous rollout, with some students waiting up to a month to start receiving any instruction. A recent audit of the program was scathing on a number of points in its criticism.

School Board members in the spring voted to “pause” the program for a year and join Virtual Virginia while considering what to do next. A task force is slated to report back in December with recommendations.

With the onset of the COVID pandemic in March 2020, all Arlington Public Schools students were moved into a virtual-learning environment for the remaining three months of that school year and the start of the 2020-21 school year, with the school system providing a limited return to in-person learning in early 2021 and a more robust return that fall.

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