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Durham Public Schools launching permanent virtual academy as pandemic reshapes education ::


— The coronavirus pandemic impacted almost every aspect of school at once.

One year later, there’s a growing sense that some changes may last.

Durham Public Schools is among a few school districts choosing to launch a permanent virtual academy starting next school year.

In Durham, more than 11,000 students, the majority of the population, decided to stay online for the remainder of 2020-2021 school year.

After a year already behind the screens, DPS has found a permanent place for remote learning to meet future needs.

Despite all challenges surfaced by the pandemic, it has shown everyone what is possible — innovation.

“You got to keep the kids engaged and what works for one person might not work for someone else,” said Eric Lipp, a Durham parent.

That’s why DPS has created a permanent K-12 virtual academy called Ignite.

Lipp’s daughters opted to stay remote this year. While he’s unsure if they will return in-person next year, he said that he thinks Ignite is a crucial option to have.

“With the Ignite program, it gives us, that have succeeded in the school year, the opportunity to continue on that method,” he added.

Students who perform better in virtual classes can now expect a flexible approach to learning with three specific programs depending on grade level.

“It’s going to allow our families to learn more about what their students interests are [and] how to grow their student success,” said Matthew Hickson, the director for online learning at DPS.

Person County has also jumped on board, preparing to launch its permanent virtual academy option. Wake County leaders are also considering virtual options for next school year.

Hickson said it’s a new tool in the tool box that can offer unique electives, a nine week rotation of classes and more outdoor learning activities.

“So think about it like a playlist. You know you have some songs you like, songs are built in and you can pick which ones you want to put in what order and your teacher will support you on making the smart choices about how and what you learn on a weekly basis,” he said.

It’s a blended learning experience inspired by a chaotic year that could set the tone of education for generations to come.

“There’s been a lot of growth in the space, and we’ve learned a lot of lessons in the last year that are really going to help us,” said Hickson.

“It gives the students the ability to find out what is going to be the best method for them to learn and grow and for them to be able to succeed the best they can,” Lipp added.

DPS will host an official virtual ribbon cutting on Wednesday at 7 p.m. where parents can begin to sign-up students and find out more details.IGNITE is also hiring for online teachers in kindergarten through twelth grade.

This content was originally published here.

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