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For parents worried about potentially returning their children to the traditional classroom in the Fall, Cumberland County Schools has come up with a new program to teach those students remotely. In the the Cumberland County Schools Board of Education meeting held on June 9, the district approved a new Cumberland Virtual Academy program that will give students the opportunity to learn remotely for the entire 2020-2021 school year.

“This program will allow us to create an alternative learning approach for families who may not want their children to return to the brick and mortar physical classroom environment due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jane Fields said.

Note: You can watch the portion of the Board of Education meeting that discussed the Cumberland Virtual Academy by clicking here (it starts at 1:54:30). You can also view the presentation here.

The program would allow a complete school experience for students of all grade levels, with Cumberland County Schools providing laptops for students enrolled, as well as required connectivity.

Enrollment will be available through an application period starting June 15 to all students who are eligible for Cumberland County Schools, and will remain open until the 10th day of school this year. Students would be able to transfer into their home school if the program isn’t working for them at the end of the semester.

The district could potentially make this available to all students if the COVID-19 situation merits students not returning to schools, Fields said.

Ideally the program would allow the school system to attract students from private, homeschool, and charter families to have flexible environments to enrich their students’ learning, Fields said.

Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly has said the State of North Carolina would pay for hiring a principal for the school, and funding for the teachers would mostly already be in place.

The program would have virtual and face-to-face opportunities, including field trips, guest spearkers, tutoring and other social gatherings. Courses will include the core classes and various elective and career and technical education courses, all tought by licensed teachers. Some of those teachers will be stand-alone for the Academy, while others would be current teachers filling in during planning periods and other open times.

Because of the technology requirements needed to accomplish this, CCS plans to make laptops available to all students in the program, as well as the required internet connectivity to be in the program.

The environment would allow for students to be involved in sports and other extracurricular activities, just like homeschool students are now provided.

The district plans to do recruitment of students through homeschool listings they already have available, as well as recent student withdrawals to enter private or charter schools. The plan would also be to make this a permanent fixture in the system, eventually becoming a Choice Schools option for all students in the current Choice program.

Curriculum requirements would be the same for the Virtual Academy as the regular schools, and end of grade, end of course and other testing would happen at a centralized location.

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Brandon Plotnick is a former sports journalist, now living in the digital space with interests all over the musical and pop culture map.