Monroe County Schools’ virtual learning program officially launched on Monday.

According to information submitted by Monroe County Schools Director Dr. DeAnna McClendon, families will select one of two options for their children to continue their education as school starts back next month.

Those consist of an in-person option or virtual learning option as a response to COVID-19.

“Families exercising the virtual learning option will enroll their children at their traditional assigned school to participate in virtual learning,” stated the submitted documents. “With either option (in-person or virtual learning), all students are expected to maintain satisfactory attendance and academic progress.”

Parents can register their students for virtual learning through the Monroe County Schools website.

Once the application has been reviewed, the school will send an e-mail to the applicant containing information regarding registration, course selections and a required orientation course.

Students with no internet access or who have learning disabilities may not qualify for virtual learning.

“We may have to provide some sort of homebound services or something different because they may not be able to sit in front of a computer (with certain disabilities) or they may not be able to work through any of the problems independently,” said McClendon. “They probably have their own individualized education program (IEP) and depending on what is in their IEP would determine if they qualify or not.”

“New student orientation will also be conducted virtually,” the document continued. “The student and at least one parent/guardian must participate in the orientation.”

For virtual learning students in Madisonville Primary School, Madisonville Intermediate School, Tellico Plains Elementary School and Vonore Elementary School, orientation will be scheduled by the assigned teacher.

Students enrolled in virtual learning for Coker Creek Elementary School, Madisonville Middle School, Rural Vale School, Sequoyah High School, Sweetwater High School, Tellico Plains High School and Vonore Middle School will participate in an online orientation course through Edgenuity.

“Complete understanding of the 2020-21 Virtual Learning Program will be crucial to ensure student success in the distance learning environment,” the documents stated. “Monroe County Schools is committed to providing a high degree of support and resources for students and families.”

Virtual Learning Model B: MIS, MPS, TPES, VES will consist of students participating in classes focused on English Language Arts, Writing, Math, Social Studies, Physical Education, Art, Music and Library.

Virtual Learning Model A: CCES, MMS, RVS, SQHS, SHS, TPHS, VMS, which is facilitated by Edgenuity, will participate in classes focused on English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Physical Education, Arts, Music, Library and Career Technical Education or other specialized courses.

“Virtual learning teachers will facilitate students’ progress in their classes through online written feedback, video-based lessons and communication with parents. Attendance at sessions, engagement in online work and progress for our students are closely related,” according to the documents. “Virtual Learning teachers will prioritize communication with parents of these students on a regular basis and will closely monitor the engagement of students in their online work.”

The school system will still hold high academic honesty expectations of their students. Attendance will also be monitored, with the schools seeking daily visual, verbal and/or written verification of student participation.

McClendon believes this virtual learning is the best option to choose during the current pandemic.

“Here is a way for students to still be engaged in the academic learning with their teachers,” said McClendon.

One of the biggest challenges the school board has faced with virtual learning is the amount of homes in the county that lack internet or the proper equipment to support virtual learning.

“Families that choose the virtual option will have to either purchase a device or obtain internet service if they don’t already have that available,” said McClendon. “The state department has been very clear about the structure of academics and the academic lessons ... They have to put some accountability measures in place and guidelines that we must follow.”

Parents who initially choose to send their child back to school in-person will have an opportunity to switch their child to virtual learning every nine week period.

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