According to Superintendent Rodney Watson, while the new program would be similar to the remote learning option the district offered in the 2020-21 school year, SISD's new virtual academy would offer a combination of synchronous and asynchronous instruction while allowing students to stay connected with their zoned campus through virtual clubs and in-person extracurricular activities. Additionally, the new program would require a one-year commitment from families as opposed to allowing families to switch between in-person and remote learning throughout the school year.
"We know that online learning has really been a great fit for some families, so we're looking at offering a virtual academy for students who really thrive in this learning environment," Watson said in a statement. "It's made sense this year to allow families the flexibility to transition back and forth between in-person and remote, but for next year, we're going to be asking that families agree to online learning for the entire school year."
In addition to a potential virtual academy, SISD will continue to offer in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year. However, district officials have not announced details about COVID-19 protocols—such as mask requirements—for the 2021-22 school year as of April 23.
According to the release, if Texas lawmakers adopt legislation that would fund an online academy, students interested in attending SISD's new virtual academy will need to go through an application process as the school capacity will be limited to about 400 students. Additionally, SISD's new program is recommended for students who are able to "thrive in an environment that requires self-discipline and good time management." Younger virtual academy students would also need to have an adult supervision while learning remotely, the release said.
"We are still working out the logistics of our application process, but we view our virtual academy as another choice for families who are looking for a unique experience that best fits the needs of their student," said Lupita Hinojosa, chief of innovation and equity, in a statement.
Additionally, district officials said they would be sending out a survey to all SISD families in the coming days to determine the community's interest in a full-time virtual academy.
"Once we've confirmed the availability of state funding, we'll then contact those interested families with details on the application process," Hinojosa said. "We're excited about the possibility of being able to extend this opportunity to our students and families."
Neighboring school district Klein ISD also recently announced plans for its new online learning program, Klein Virtual Academy, which is set to open for the 2021-22 school year, if state funding allows. KISD began accepting student applications for the KVA on April 23.