WASD Virtual Academy offers alternative to traditional learning

Williamsport Area School District’s Virtual Academy offers students the flexibility of on-line learning while still enjoying an in-school experience.

“We’ve been offering the on-line option for a while,” said Bill Emery, the district’s principal of Alternative Schools. “But Virtual Academy is a good step forward toward fostering education.”

Students between grades kindergarten and 12 can enroll in the program, which now is aligned with VLN Partners, Pittsburgh.

Virtual Academy replaces VLINC, which was offered through BLaST Intermediate Unit 17.

The visual learning network will bring digitalized courses and online teachers.

Emery said VLINC will integrate more structure into online learning such as a daily required homeroom session and a weekly education plan.

Students can learn from home but still report to school for help from instructors.

“They will have a virtual homeroom teacher to go over their progress with them once a week,” Emery said. “We want to keep kids as connected as possible to the school district.”

A drop-in center in the high school provides an academic environment where students can receive any learning support they need.

Those who fall below a 75 percent grade point average in any course must undergo tutoring or other academic help.

For successful students, it will mean having a school experience, including any extra-curricular activities in which they choose to participate.

Emery said he’s excited about the Virtual Academy.

“Our priority is our kids,” he said. “We have to find ways for them to get a diploma.”

Emery will be the first to note that many students better embrace learning through non-traditional education approaches such as online teaching.

The types of students who will enroll in the Virtual Academy will range from the college bound students to those looking to enter the workforce or military after graduation.

“I think there are a lot of people in the community glad were are offering this,” said Stephanie Pardoe, Virtual Academy coordinator. “This is just another way to help students succeed.”

Emery noted that parental support is key to student success.

Parents of students can monitor their progress through daily attendance, feedback on assignments, access to grade books and performance reports.

The Virtual Academy offers opportunities for earning college credits and participating in field trips and on-campus science labs.

“It’s quality education in an on-line format,” Emery said.