MCPS Has Received About 500 Virtual Academy Applications

As of Thursday, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has received about 500 applications for its 2021-2022 virtual academy, MCPS Director of Technology Integration and Support Dr. Kara Trenkamp shared during a school board meeting.

The virtual learning academy for the 2021-2022 school year, called “Montgomery Virtual,” is a five-days-a-week program that will mirror the brick-and-mortar school calendar, Trenkamp explained Thursday. It will mirror the fully synchronous learning experience for kindergarten-grade 8, which means there will be a live teacher in the virtual academy working with students in real time. For high school students, there will be an expectation to engage in some asynchronous learning.

Acting Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight emphasized that the default learning model for the next school year will be in-person instruction.

“That truly is our default. In-person, five days a week instruction,” McKnight said. In order to be eligible for the K-12 online academy, the MCPS student or student’s family must be experiencing extenuating circumstances that could be helped through virtual learning, according to the application form. Families must provide documentation of the circumstances. If there is no documentation, “evidence of such extenuating circumstances may be obtained through consultation with school staff,” MCPS says. For high school students, other circumstances like work, an internship or dual enrollment at Montgomery College may be qualifying circumstances.

According to MCPS, “Demonstrated improvement in virtual learning may be considered an extenuating circumstance.”

Applications are open until July 2. The curriculum is continuing to evolve, Trenkamp said.

MCPS received about five emails from families Wednesday asking to withdraw their applications after deciding they want to return to in-person learning instead, which MCPS expects, she said. Some applications have been denied already, she said, but it was mutually agreed upon. Families weren’t sure if the virtual academy was a good fit for them and applied to engage in a deeper conversation and explore the opportunity, and decided against it.

“As we continue to have the conversations with families, I think that’s where a lot of this will flush out,” Trenkamp said. MCPS is only just digging into the applications, she said.

“We are working with families to ensure they have the information that they need and they understand this application process and what this means,” Trenkamp said.

MCPS will be hiring current teachers within the school system for the virtual academy as well as new MCPS hires. The staff will be dedicated to the virtual academy.

An MCPS central office committee is reviewing the applications. Many members have been on other MCPS application review committees, Trenkamp said. They represent many perspectives, including special education, equity and English language learning.

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About Maryam Shahzad

Maryam is a reporter with Montgomery Community Media. She graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019 with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism. Previously, she was an intern with MCM. She can be reached at mshahzad@mymcmedia.org or on Twitter @maryam_mcm.

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