ACPS Offers Virtual Option for This Year

Caroline Fleming, Staff Writer

Beginning in the 2021-2022 school year, ACPS offered an entirely virtual school option for all students. The intent of this program is to cater to the needs of students who prefer to learn virtually over returning to in-person classes.
Teachers working in this setting have been given the opportunity to adjust their experiences from the previous year online. They are continuing to grow virtual learning into an acceptable way of instruction.
Inside the virtual environment, many teachers have taken on new roles. Lynn Define, a former WAHS English teacher, has taken on seven different courses. “It sounds crazy, and it is, but I get to really hone in on teaching and that excites me.”
Though Define is excited by this new teaching opportunity, she misses being in person with her students and getting to have important face-to-face conversations.
Western’s former assistant principal Reed Gillespie serves as the principal of the virtual school. Like Define, Gillespie sees this as “a unique opportunity to reinvent some of what we’ve traditionally done, and hopefully, we can learn from this year and apply these experiences to all schools in the future.”
The school’s schedule consists of Zoom meetings held with direct instruction. To improve upon the online class experience, it is a requirement for student cameras to be on for the entire synchronous time. Teachers are also encouraged to keep their students on call for the period instead of letting them leave during the designated “asynchronous time.”
Students are also excited for the change. Sally Laurencelle, a former Western Albemarle student, reflected on how she “can easily get all my work done and then be done for the day and go to sports practice and do homework.”
“I think COVID-19 made us all look at things differently,” Define said. “Why shouldn’t we look at the way we teach? Maybe there is a better way to reach kids who the traditional school wasn’t working for.”