Watauga County Schools has launched a survey to gauge community interest in participation in an online virtual public school for K-8 students in the 2021-22 school year.
Currently, the district operates an online school called the Watauga Virtual Academy for students who are unable to attend school in person due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The district is now seeking feedback from parents across the community to determine interest in establishing the WVA as an ongoing institution in the coming school year.
Next year, Watauga County Schools plans to operate the Watauga Virtual Academy as its own school as an opportunity for families who wish to participate in virtual education on an ongoing basis. Families will be able to apply for the new online school and acceptance would be limited to those who demonstrate that they can be successful in the highly digital/virtual setting.
Watauga County Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott said a permanent Watauga Virtual Academy could serve as an alternative option for families who currently homeschool, or those who are seeking scheduling flexibility that isn’t available in a traditional school setting.
“Operating school during the pandemic has presented us with an unprecedented set of challenges,” Elliott said. “It’s required us to plan for situations and circumstances that would have been unthinkable in the past, but through our efforts to continue school safely this year, we’ve been able to learn a great deal about how we might operate differently and provide services and flexibility for our students and parents that would have otherwise been impossible.”
Elliott said he wanted public schools to be able to reach as many people in their communities as possible, and hoped that opening an online academy would allow WCS to connect with families and students that it had never been able to serve in the past or to remain connected with families who are exploring other choices.
Elliott said students enrolled in the WVA would be on equal footing with students enrolled in traditional in-person classes and would have access to all public school extracurricular and athletic opportunities. “Our students enjoy a wide range of opportunities from being enrolled in our school system,” Elliott said. “I would like to expand those opportunities to all students in our community through enrollment in our virtual academy if that is a good choice for the student and family.”
The school system is also anticipating the return of many students to the school system for face to face instruction next school year who were not enrolled this year. Elliott encourages all families who are not enrolled this year to make contact with their local school to let them know if they plan to return next year.
“We will be making many important decisions in the coming weeks, including the number of teachers we will need to hire, so it will be helpful to hear from families as soon as possible.
WCS is seeking feedback from any community members regardless of their current status with the school system. You can take the survey at http://bit.ly/WVAinterest. It will be available until Wednesday, Feb. 3. If you have any questions, please contact Tamara Stamey at [email protected].