Natchitoches Parish School District pivots to stand-alone Virtual Online School Option

During his superintendent’s report on April 6, Dr. Grant Eloi said March has been really good for the district as far as reported Covid cases. There are under four cases for both teachers and students and the parish is still in Phase 3. The CDC is now saying students and teachers can be three feet apart, but district administrators are still telling everyone that six feet is the gold standard.

Natchitoches Parish is at 2.8 positivity rate, which is slightly higher than it was but it’s still below 3% and statewide has been below 5% since February 25. With all these things combined it’s really painting a picture that the district is in a good place. Since 27.4% of the state has initiated vaccinations the district is encouraging all of its employees to be vaccinated. Parents with children age 16 or older are also encouraged to bring them out to be vaccinated.

With all of this being said what the district is seeing is that Covid is in a much different location than it was nine months ago and there’s a need to pivot somewhat in terms of how the district approaches this from an instructional standpoint.

There’s a need for a virtual schooling option and the district still feels as though that’s necessary to a degree but due to the climate being different in terms of coping the district would like to set some standards on what entails being able to be allowed to be in virtual school. This will have to be brought to be brought before the board to vote on. The idea is to create a list of criteria students would have to meet to be eligible for virtual school.

“This isn’t just an arbitrary decision,” said Eloi. “This is based on the fact that we do feel as though the vaccines are getting out there and all those things and we’re also looking at other districts and what they’re doing, and so at the same time while we’re trying to pivot away from remote learning for the masses, we’re also creating a standalone virtual school.”

Christie Irchirl from Lakeview Jr. High will transfer to be principal over the virtual school. She would create this program where many districts already have it. In fact, many of them have had it for close to a decade. Creating this program for Natchitoches Parish would help students who are homebound, students who are expelled, students who are behind in their coursework, students who want to accelerate because maybe they are working toward an associate’s degree and they want to get ahead on a class that they think they can do online, and then also students who have a true hardship.

The program would also switch from google classroom to Edgenuity because that’s a true completely online platform that really speaks more of a virtual school as opposed to remote learning. The district is trying to draw that line that there’s remote learning which was done this year and then there’s virtual online school which the district is pivoting to.

Irchirl and her team are working on the handbook and they’re taking information from other districts. The next step is to get people to apply who feel that virtual online schooling is a real need in their family. There are still going to be families that have a true need because of Covid if they have someone in their family with multiple co-morbid conditions and other things of this nature.

The virtual option will have requirements for students including (nothing is set in stone yet):

-Have had to successfully been in virtual this year
-Have at least a C average
-Have an attendance requirement less than a certain amount of absences
-No disciplinary issues in virtual
-Teacher recommendations
-Approval from administration

If there’s a medical diagnosis involved, proof of that medical diagnosis would be required.

Next month Eloi said he will provide the board with a very specific plan of how to get students enrolled in virtual online school and what exactly the virtual program will look like. Irchirl will also be available to answer questions.

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