Is Sioux Falls School District’s virtual academy the right choice for your student?

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Sioux Falls School District is offering a virtual academy for students and parents that decide it would be better for them to learn at home. The academy lasts the whole school year, and the deadline to sign up is August 7.

Dr. Teresa Boysen is the Assistant Superintendent. She says that while parents may sign up for the academy for the whole year, they can switch to in school at semester time if they change their minds.

Boysen also said, as of Monday, the district has 1,000 applications for the virtual academy. The district will determine how many teachers will teach the academy depending on how many applications they receive. As far as whether the teachers will just teach the virtual academy or in classrooms, the answer varies.

“It looks a little bit different at each level. At the elementary, they will be exclusively virtual academy teachers. And so, we’ll have that group of teachers, and they’ll be housed in a Sioux Falls School District building that way they can collaborate with each other and work together. At the middle school and high school level, those teachers are part of that building. So, they will teach part of their day in that virtual academy and the other part of the day in the classroom,” Boysen said.

As of now, the students signing up for the academy is evenly spread throughout the grade levels.

“When we look at the breakdown of the students that are applying for this, it’s really equally distributed. Right now, we have about 500 applicants at K-5, but that’s six grade levels. We have 300 at middle school and 300 at high school,” Boysen said.

Brian Gochal has three children attending school this year, and they have decided as a family to enroll in the virtual academy. He said his two daughters are going to be seniors in high school, and he thought this might be a good transition for them. His youngest took a bit more deliberation.

“All of these things come down to what’s best for my child. So, as I look at the information now, and I look at the fact that this is for seventh grade… It’s not his senior year of med school. This is seventh grade, and while it’s very important for all the reasons it’s important, at this point, him not getting sick or us sick is more important,” Gochal said.

However, if parents or the student decide going to school is best for them, you can switch at semester time. You just have to let your school building’s principal know by December 1.

“The question is, is there any reason we’d switch and send him back to school? At the point that the risk of getting COVID is outweighed by his development falling behind,” Gochal said.

While COVID-19 is a big concern for Gochal, he does have some other concerns for the virtual academy too.

“The biggest concern is I’m not a teacher. And, I’m gonna have to… it isn’t that I’m not a good parent or an attentive parent. I mean, others can decide that, I guess. But let’s just assume on the balance of things that I’m not a bad person, but I’m also not a teacher,” Gochal said.

According to Gochal, the Sioux Falls School District sent out a document detailing what the virtual academy would entail, which put him a little more at ease.

Read more about the school district’s Return to Learn plan in the following stories:

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