Fargo Public Schools’ virtual academy provides an option for working parents this upcoming year

A decision on how classes will look like the first day of school won't be made until August 10
Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 7:02 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Fargo school administrators tried to put some parents minds at ease by going over their plan Friday for the upcoming school year.

The district outlined at a media conference that it is attempting to come up with the most effective and safest way to educate children during the coronavirus pandemic by relying on data.

“This is based on a collaborative effort about what is the most meaningful educational experience at Fargo Public Schools,” FPS Superintendent Dr. Rupak Gandhi said.

Jayme and Paul Schlabsz have a son preparing to start kindergarten in Fargo and they said uncertainties over the school year forced them to enroll him in daycare.

“I know they’re trying to figure out the best plan for everybody. And I know not everybody’s going to be happy about it. It’s just, it’s really really difficult for working parents,” Jayme said.

The Schlabsz’s are opting to use the virtual academy.

“If we could sit down after work, after hours and go through things,” Paul said.

“And even sit down on the weekends too,” Jayme added. “We’re willing to, you know, put the work in that we need to do.”

The virtual academy is a program Superintendent Gandhi discussed at Friday’s conference.

“The best way to look at it, is to look at having two separate school systems running,” Gandhi said. “One will be a virtual academy that has its own group of students and it’s own group of staff.”

Families who opt for the virtual academy will have to commit to at least one semester. Their child will still be able to participate in student activities.

Fargo Public Schools is also in the midst of deciding if students will begin the first day of classes on September 2 in-person, online, or a combination of both.

A committee made up of 16 people will make that decision on August 10.

“One of the things I’m really proud about in our plan is that the best instructional model that we are going to pick and put forth is going to be based on localized data in our county. And not just one individual’s data based on their personal beliefs,” Gandhi said.

Gandhi acknowledged that the hybrid model is the most complex option.

For elementary students under that model, they will go to school in two to three day weekly rotations, while working the rest online. Which students go in class and when will be based on their dwelling. That means if three children live in one household, they will all attend school on the same days.

The virtual academy will provide families with flexibility.

“We have synchronous sessions, where they would log in at a certain time to interact with the teacher,” Missy Eidsness, associate superintendent for Fargo Public Schools, said. “But, we’re going to have to be flexible enough that those are recorded for families that cannot be on at that time.”

Enrollment for the virtual academy begins on Saturday. A plan for special education students hasn’t been announced yet.

Below is a copy of Fargo Public School’s full restart plan.

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