Fort Wayne Community Schools students will have one option for remote learning next academic year – a new online-only K-12 program.
The Fort Wayne Virtual Academy will accept up to 720 students – about 2.5% of the district's 28,460 enrollment – through a lottery process in June, officials announced Monday.
Superintendent Mark Daniel said the online option was designed for students and families seeking an alternative to the traditional school environment.
“While we believe the majority of students learn best in person, we also know there are some students who found over the past year that they thrive in a virtual environment,” Daniel said in a statement. “We also know many of our parents are not ready to have their children attend school in person as long as there is an ongoing pandemic. We are establishing this option to meet the needs of those students.”
Daniel has talked throughout the academic year about potential ways to use technology to provide opportunities for all students – discussions that remain ongoing, FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman said.
Fort Wayne Virtual Academy is one step in that direction, she said, adding it's likely not the final step.
The district won't know the demand for the online program until the lottery opens June 1, but a survey months ago indicated there is enough support to make it a viable option, Stockman said.
Enrollment will be capped at 50 students per elementary grade level and 60 students per middle and high school grade level, she said.
FWCS will provide technology to participating students.
The virtual school will operate similarly to remote learning, although it will not be directly affiliated with any existing FWCS school, Stockman said.
Rather, she said, it will be assigned a school number from the Indiana Department of Education, meaning data such as test scores and graduation rates will apply to Fort Wayne Virtual Academy and not a brick-and-mortar school.
Fort Wayne Virtual Academy won't offer extra-curricular activities, and there will be limited advanced coursework opportunities at the secondary level, according to FWCS.
Participating families will be asked to sign an agreement about the program's guidelines, which address attendance, Stockman said.
Staffing details haven't been finalized, she said, but teachers won't be expected to instruct in-person and virtual students simultaneously.
State law drops virtual education funding to 85% because of the lack of brick-and-mortar expenses. Legislators made an exception this academic year because of the pandemic. The rate reverts to 85% next year.
FWCS accepts it won't receive full funding for the virtual students, Stockman said.
At a glance
Enrollment in Fort Wayne Virtual Academy will be through a lottery available on the myFWCS Parent Portal beginning June 1. It closes June 18.
Parents now registering students for the upcoming year can opt to receive additional information about the online only program. Go to www.fortwayneschools.org/myfwcs.