Waverly Community Schools plan to introduce a new online learning option for ninth and tenth grade in the 2022-23 school year. The school of choice program will be similar to previous years but will offer a more robust learning experience.
The Board of Education unanimously passed the motion on March 21. The program will use current Waverly teachers and has spots available for Virtual Academy and current Waverly students, said Superintendent Kelly Blake.
Chris Huff, the interim director of teaching and learning, said demand for virtual learning has skyrocketed since the pandemic.
“Prior to this year we had about 40 students who learned in alternative ways asynchronously,” Huff said. “Since COVID … we are up to about 110.”
Huff said the district doesn’t feel comfortable with the quality of its current virtual learning program and has wanted to improve it for a while. He said the higher demand has provided the perfect opportunity to make those changes.
“We think the time is now to regroup, offer some Waverly, more authentic, assessments and lessons led by our teachers and not some stranger recorded on the computer program,” Huff said.
Teachers who take on a virtual class will be compensated for their extra work, Huff said. Virtual learning will remain asynchronous to help students and faculty. Huff said a Zoom-in option requires the teacher to manage two classrooms at once, creating a lower quality experience for both classes.
“By far the thing that kids are looking for the most is flexibility,” Huff said. “Some of them have social anxieties, some of them have life circumstances, some of them are pregnant, some of them do better in the evening rather than the morning. So, we wanted to do something that was more authentic but still give kids that flexibility.”
Board honors nurse for her work
At the end of the meeting, school nurse Sue Ruegsegger received a round of applause after Blake thanked her for her hard work throughout the pandemic.
Ruegsegger thanked the administrators for their support with mitigation strategies. She also asked the board to consider hiring additional support for the 2022-23 school year as the district sees an increase in social and emotional difficulties after the pandemic.
“You can’t teach a kid that isn’t healthy,” Ruegsegger said. “And you need to be able to teach them health. So, it kind of goes both ways. And I really want to work together, but it’s hard being the only one.”