Albemarle County Public Schools to offer full in-person instruction and fully virtual school this fall

Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) students will be back in the classroom five days a week this fall, if all goes according to plan.
Updated: Apr. 19, 2021 at 6:31 PM EDT
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) students will be back in the classroom five days a week this fall, if all goes according to plan. The county is also rolling out an entirely virtual school this fall, and it might be here to stay.

ACPS says this will truly be an all-virtual school - with its own principal, teachers, and students. It’s a groundbreaking new option for the learners that have been doing better in an online classroom.

“There are students that have thrived in the virtual environment,” Baker Butler Elementary School Principal Seth Kennard said. “I think we’ve learned a lot from them.”

ACPS is preparing to launch the new kind of school this fall. It’s the culmination of something they’ve been thinking about for years – but sparked by the work that has been done during the pandemic.

“One thing we learned at the beginning was we can’t do the same type of instruction just on Zoom,” Kennard explained. “Everything had to be changed from the beginning.”

The district has done surveys with Albemarle County families about how interested they would be in this kind of program and 10% of families say it is something they would consider.

“If our estimates hold out, if it is about 10% of our students, it will be a large school,” ACPS Superintendent Matt Haas explained. “Including the elementary, middle and high school students, it could be around 1,400 students.”

Staffing the new facility will not fall on existing teachers – instead, an entirely new staff will be hired.

“A lot of times you talk about virtual school, it’s anytime, anywhere,” Haas said. “In this case, it will be anywhere, but not any time. It’ll be live instruction all day, and the students will participate in that.”

The new school will debut as the county plans to bring students back into the classroom five days a week. With new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance allowing students to be three feet apart instead of six feet, space will not be as much of an issue as feared. Still, the county plans to build new spaces to help students learn safely.

“Being able to provide enough staff, and then enough space for for the instruction to take place,” Haas said. “So, we’re going to be leveraging federal money, there’s a, there’s a large sum of rescue funding that’s coming our way.”

The plan is subject to change and approval by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, but ACPS is standing by it.

“We’re committed to five days a week in person at our school sites, a virtual school for families that want to choose that,” Haas said.

ACPS says the all-virtual school might not just be for this year. The district is interested in making it a permanent program, if the interest is there. The process to hire a principal will begin in the weeks to come. Teachers will be hired over the summer.

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