Huntsville Virtual Academy giving up flexibility for more structure

Updated: Jan. 12, 2021 at 10:22 AM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The second semester for Huntsville City Schools is off and running with traditional students starting in a hybrid schedule.

For the Huntsville Virtual Academy students, HCS spokesperson Craig Williams said there is a big change for the second semester. HVA students will be getting more structure in their school day.

“We are making that synchronous instruction, meaning that students need to log on at certain times in the day to interact with their teacher, interact with their classmates,” Williams said.

Williams said one of the original selling points of the HVA was the flexibility, the ability to do school anywhere and anytime. He said this change will sacrifice some freedom, but will make up for it with more accountability.

“We believe it will benefit students more to be able to continue to have more structure, more interaction with their teachers and classmates, and ultimately help student success and help engage the teaching and learning process for this semester,” he said.

Williams said the decision all came down to prioritizing student success.

“We considered a student success standpoint,” he said. “We all understand students perform better, they have a bit more classroom interaction when they’re online in that synchronous environment interacting like me and you are right now.”

Across the country, students seem to be falling behind more than ever before because of the effects COVID-19 has had on the classroom.

“In the national education landscape many education experts expect there will likely be an overall learning curve due to COVID-19,” Williams said.

He said they’re preparing for this and working to get kids caught up to the education standards they have at HCS.

Looking back at the first semester, Williams said he feels like HCS parents, students, teachers and staff did well considering all of the factors.

He said the theme of this semester was adapting and moving forward as they dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic and a debilitating cyber attack.

“We want to make sure the focus this year is teaching and learning even in the age of COVID-19,” Williams said. “With the focus not necessarily on COVID as much as it is resiliency and figuring out ways for education to go on and continue to help and empower our students and teachers.”

But the pandemic does loom over everything, Williams said they’ve adapted to judging the risks and crunching the numbers when it comes to deciding how to go about school, whether that is in-person, virtual or a mix of the two.

He said they’re also noticed more case coming from the community than the classroom.

“If a student contracts COVID-19, its often not a result of them being around a classmate in school,” Williams said. “One thing we’re seeing is its often a result things that families are doing outside of the buildings whether it’s being around other people or not practicing the health protocols to the greatest extent possible.”

Williams said the school and parent relationship is so essential right now and he and other HCS leaders are grateful to what families are doing to keep the spread of COVID-19 down.

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