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San Diego Unified launches Virtual Academy, giving K-12 students the option to learn from home

Posted at 3:37 PM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 01:26:01-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego Unified School District is gearing up to welcome students back to its schools on Aug. 30. Out of the more than 100,000 students district-wide, a small percentage chose to stick with distance learning.

“We’ve got 700 students that have already enrolled in the Virtual Academy,” said Richard Barrera, president of San Diego Unified’s school board.

Barrera said the district is offering this new Virtual Academy option to K-12 students for the 2021-2022 school year. The option will not be a hybrid learning model like we’ve seen before with educators teaching students online and in-person at the same time; instead, students enrolled will fully learn from home with educators dedicated to virtual teaching only.

“It’s a program for students at all different grade levels, with assigned teachers, with assigned curriculum,” Barrera explained.

As the COVID-19 delta variant continues to spread, families that chose the in-person learning option might be having second thoughts about sending their kids back to the classroom, especially those too young to get vaccinated.

While the district said it has many COVID-19 safety protocols in place designed to keep students and teachers safe in the classroom, there is still time for families looking to switch to distance learning if they wish. The Virtual Academy classes also start on Aug. 30.

“Students can enroll in the virtual academy at any point if they’re not comfortable with in-person learning,” said Barrera. “When we had sent out a survey a few months ago, we had about 14-hundred students who had expressed interest, so it’s possible that we’ll see more families over the next couple of weeks.”

For families interested in the Virtual Academy, the district asks that they email with their child’s name, grade level this school year, student ID number, and current school site.

They ask for this to be completed by Aug. 20, however, Barrera said parents will have more time to enroll if they change their minds later on.

"The Virtual Academy is an important option for our students and their families as we reopen our schools. Teachers know that it was important for those families seeking an online program to have a viable, dedicated online option that did not include any type of hybrid instruction. Our educators also expressed the importance of an online-only option for our students," said Kisha Borden, President San Diego Education Association, in an emailed statement to ABC 10News. "SDEA negotiated an agreement with SDUSD in June of this year ensuring that our students would have an online-only option. I'm excited that we were able to stand up this virtual academy in such a short timeline."

Borden added that because this is a new educational offering from SDUSD, implementation could be challenging at the beginning.

In addition to an indoor mask mandate at SDUSD schools, and the vaccination requirement or frequent COVID-19 testing for school staff, the district sent a letter to parents saying it has also upgraded HVAC filtration systems at its schools, installed particulate sensors and CO2 monitors at schools to monitor indoor air quality, provided handwashing stations at multiple locations, purchased electrostatic disinfecting sprayers to clean school buses, and has contact tracing protocols in place if someone tests positive at school.