MCPS will implement a year-long virtual learning option for students during the 2021–2022 school year, school district officials announced after a Board of Education meeting on April 15.
The school district has recently planned for students to return to a typical five-day, in-person experience this fall. However, MCPS has also acknowledged on its website that many students have thrived under the current online setup.
“MCPS has heard from schools and the community that virtual learning has been an instructional model that has worked well for their students and families for a variety of reasons,” the webpage reads.
School district officials designed “Montgomery Virtual,” a program that will be open to students of all grades who have physical or mental health concerns or need to provide for their families. Students will be able to register for the program online from May 17 to May 31.
Over the past year, many students have demonstrated success with online learning, said Assistant Principal Kristin Rudolph.
“We have found that virtual learning is working for a lot of students,” Rudolph said. “This virtual academy will give those students an opportunity to continue with a format that works for them.”
In contrast to the current online model, Montgomery Virtual will focus on providing individualized learning practices through methods like additional help sessions.
MCPS plans for students in Montgomery Virtual to choose from three learning blocks — one each in the morning, afternoon and evening — during which they’ll take classes. Students in the program will continue to have access to their school’s meals, extracurriculars and athletics.
Since February 2019, senior Stella Hamman has participated daily in the Montgomery County Fire Rescue Service Training Academy, balancing the establishment’s demands with her schoolwork. Online learning has “helped relieve a lot of stress and pressure” for her this year, she said.
“If I weren’t graduating, I would definitely participate in next year’s program,” Hamman said. “It would help to better manage my workload with both school and training.”
Despite its challenges, the past 13 months of virtual instruction have “opened up new ways to learn,” said resource counselor Bill Toth.
“I think in-person learning is a better way to go, but that doesn’t fit everyone,” Toth said. “Just having an option to remain virtual can help reach more students and help them succeed.”