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School Closures in Virginia Due to Coronavirus: Learning Online in VA When Schools Close

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Do you need to know about online schooling options during the coronavirus outbreak in the Commonwealth of Virginia? We'll review some of the various ways you can adapt to your new learning environment.

How to Learn Online in Virginia

Virginia is one of the four states known as commonwealths. It has its own unique set of academic and educational standards. Virginia temporarily closed all its K-12 schools, public and private, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

As of 2020, the state of Virginia has:

  • 8 school regions
  • 133 school districts

The state is home to many respected colleges and universities as well, which are adjusting to pressing online educational demands. For instance, George Mason University has already coined the phrase 'virtual alternative instruction' to describe its online learning format.

In the year 2014, the Virginia General Assembly instructed the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to establish the Virtual Learning Advisory Committee (VLAC). Additionally, Virginia has the Multidivision Online Provider Program (MOP) for alignment with state standards.

Using Study.com to Your Benefit

Study.com is an ideal way for students to stay mentally sharp and learn during the school shutdowns. The website features literally thousands of video lessons in animated form on a variety of topics for K-12 students and college students.

Study.com resources include:

  • Free app
  • Lesson plans
  • Unit plans
  • Text lessons
  • Video lessons
  • Video timelines
  • Video transcripts
  • Practice tests
  • Quizzes
  • Project ideas
  • Activities
  • Assignments
  • Discussion questions
  • Essay topics
  • Flashcards

Differing Districts

The school closure order came as a complete surprise to the school districts. The original plan was to allow each respective school superintendent to make the decision.

Most Virginians divide the state into the transitional Hampton Roads region near the coast, the wealthier Northern Virginia region, and the blue-collar mountainous western rural region.

One glaring fact about Virginia is that some districts, such as wealthy Virginia Beach, have one-to-one programs that give them definitive advantages. The term 'one-to-one' means that literally every single student gets their own online device. On the other hand, blue-collar Portsmouth only has the one-to-one program for high schools, and will probably hand out 'preprinted worksheets' for its K-8 students.

One considered option is to create prepared 'lesson packets' for each student. Other schools are preparing 'instructional packets.' Some students have Chromebooks while others do not have them.

Virginia Virtual Academy

The Virginia Virtual Academy (VAVA) is based in Herndon, Virginia, but serves other students in the state, who are not required to pay tuition. However, it should be duly noted families are responsible for purchasing their own paper, printer ink, and other relevant office supplies. The eligibility requirements, explanations for how to enroll, and other pertinent information are available on the official website.

VirtualVirginia

The VirtualVirginia website is administered under the guidance of the Virginia Department of Education. It offers information for counselors, students, and teachers during the coronavirus outbreak. The website does note that homeschooled students are to be enrolled by their parents, while the standard procedure is for students to be enrolled by their school counselors.

Governor's Schools and Magnet Schools

Virginia is home to several programs featuring Governor's Schools and Magnet Schools. For example, New Horizons Regional Education Center (NHREC) is a specific Magnet School in the state. The Governor's School for Science and Technology is part of the program. The Center for Autism is also part of the program. Parents and students can access their official websites and apps to learn more about online learning possibilities during the coronavirus outbreak.

Educational Television

Virginia is home to some quality educational television resources as well. For example, Arlington Educational Television (AETV) has won several national awards and offers details of many programs as well as services at its official website.

Internet Service Providers

The Virginia Education Association (VEA) and its President Jim Livingston have released pertinent online information for low-income families that lack a quality Internet Service Provider (ISP) option for educational purposes. For example, one ISP is offering their 'essentials' package free for two months, while another ISP is offering a free month, while yet another is requiring no contracts.

Other Online Sources

Other helpful online terms to research include:

  • Educational technology
  • Learning Management Systems (LMS)
  • Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)
  • Online e-learning
  • Virtual Learning Environment (VLM)

Learning at Home Lifestyle Tips

The debilitating fear, panic, and stress associated with the coronavirus outbreak are intense and can lead to serious health complications. Therefore, it is desirable for the homeschooling student to incorporate 'sound mind in a sound body' principles each day. Tips include:

  • Exercise
  • Fresh air
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Quality sleep
  • Sunshine

The at-home student must learn to balance discipline with flexibility. Prepare a workstation for minimal distractions, and stick to a study plan. However, take several breaks as needed throughout the day and night too.

Students With Disabilities

The Virginians with Disabilities Act (VDA) of 1985 actually passed roughly five years before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Ultimately, this means it is going to be extremely challenging to provide students with disabilities equal and fair assignments. In addition, private special education day schools in Virginia are closed for two weeks as well. In the meantime, emergency meals with free delivery may be available to these citizens.

In Review

As the news of the school shutdown came on short notice, parents and students are scrambling to find resources for homeschool learning. Study.com is a fine way for students to access online learning tools. Virginia school resources vary widely by region and district, although the state does have quality online resources available. Lastly, the parents of special needs students will probably have to do some extra research as they attempt to meet their homeschool requirements.

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