Some Fayette Co. school board members express concerns over virtual learning program

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 12:07 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – Across the country, schools are opening in different ways as districts decide their best way forward in the midst of a pandemic.

Many, including Fayette County Public Schools, are opting to begin the semester virtually, but what will that mean for students and parents?

Fayette County school board member Tyler Murphy said he was one of two board members who voted against the proposal to use Florida Virtual School as the outside vendor for the Virtual Learning Academy. The virtual program would be administered by Fayette County teachers and employees.

“What Fayette County has done is they have licensed the content,” explains Courtney Calfee, with the Florida Virtual School. “So, they have an enterprise license which means that they have the flexibility to use our course catalog however they see fit. For any needs there. And they would use it in your system, Canvas for instance, and you would use it with your instructors. So the instructors at your school would have access to the courses and use them how your teacher sees fit.”

That academy is for families who choose not to return to in-person classes once they resume, because of health concerns.

The school system plans to begin the first six weeks with on-line instruction conducted by Fayette County teachers, but families who choose the virtual academy are committing to spending the entire semester learning online.

Florida Virtual School is a public school, operated online. Murphy says the contract with Fayette County was for $800,000 and runs through next July. According to Stephanie Spires, Chairwoman for the Fayette County Schools Board of Education, the cost for the virtual academy is covered by COVID-19 funds.

He said his two biggest concerns were the quick nature of the decision and his belief Fayette County teachers could serve the same role since they’ll already be teaching online for the first six weeks.

“Yes, we need an all virtual learning model to take us even past the point where we get to in-person instruction, because by that point we may still have families and staff who aren’t comfortable returning to school,” says Murphy. “But, that should not be something we outsource to a vendor.”

Murphy says once that plan was approved, families only have until next Monday to decide if they want to use the virtual academy.

In an email earlier this month Fayette County Schools did say it was critical that families understand this is a semester-long commitment to online instruction, and that the program will not have the wide variety of course offerings and specialized programs as other Fayette County public schools.

WKYT has reached out to the school system for comment on that plan, but so far haven’t heard back from them.

Copyright 2020 WKYT. All rights reserved.

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