The Garland ISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved on Tuesday a proposal to create a fully virtual school program.
As COVID-19 forced students and school staff to transition to an online setting, some students found themselves preferring virtual learning. Because of this, Garland ISD decided to build a virtual school program to accommodate those who enjoy online classes.
Kim Caddell, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, broke down the percentages of student success in grade blocs. It was revealed that 44% of students from kindergarten through second grade indicated success in online learning, 49% for third through fifth grade, 54% for grades six through eight, and 57% for grades nine through 12.
“We have many students who are thriving,” Caddell said. “We know that in order for those students to continue to thrive and to meet our goal to be a district of choice, a virtual school program fits nicely into our student needs.”
Of those who preferred virtual learning, 39% students preferred a balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning. 36% preferred only synchronous, and 12% preferred asynchronous. The remainder had no preference.
Two options arose in building an online program for Garland ISD. The first option will provide daily online instruction during school hours with the same attendance policies in place as the rest of the schools. The students will remain virtual for the entire year. The online programs will include on-level and honors content. However, it will not provide advance placement classes or dual credit for high school students.
“Right up front, option A is our preferred option,” Caddell said.
The virtual program will divide into two schools – a kindergarten through eighth grade program and a high school program. The projected enrollment for the kindergarten through eighth program is 2,765 students with 107 teacher staffing. Classrooms would consist of around 27 students.
The high school portion is projected to have 1,840 students with 70 teachers. This would host classrooms of 30.
Funding for the first option will come from the state. The amount will be contingent on average daily attendance, or ADA.
The second option will rely on access to the Texas Virtual School Network, TXVSN – a program that the Texas Education Agency partnered with to provide a full online course catalogue for students who wish to learn remotely. The program offers advanced placement and dual credit courses for high school students and covers grades three through 12.
Because TXVSN only provides courses starting at third grade, Garland ISD will build their own online curriculum for kindergarten through second grade. It would be associated with home campuses and receive no funding.
The second option requires the district to pull from local funding and receive half-time ADA funding. Additionally, because TXVSN provides remote learning for anyone in the state, there is a risk of Garland ISD enrolling students from outside of the district and receiving fees for the courses.
Garland ISD plans to pursue the first option of using ADA funding to build its own program. However, if it cannot pursue the first option, the district plans to move to the second option where it partners with TXVSN with a budget cap of $5 million.
“In order to cap at $5 million, we would be able to serve approximately 1,337 students – roughly 201 students in K through two and 1,136 in grades three through 12,” Caddell said.