Frequently Asked Questions - Virtual Academy

 

Darlington County Virtual Academy

 

The Darlington County Virtual Academy (DCVA) will be available to accommodate students who may not be ready to return to face-to-face instruction due to Coronavirus concerns and to continue to serve students of all ages who have found online learning to be a good fit during the pandemic.  Darlington County Virtual Academy (DCVA) offers a virtual school program that utilizes the very best online AND offline resources from top educational publishers and curriculum specialists to deliver a high-quality 5K–12 comprehensive online education aligned with South Carolina College & Career Ready Standards.  

  

Unlike other online educational options, the Darlington County Virtual Academy will provide students a district-issued device, instructional materials and software.  In addition, students will be taught by a certified Darlington County School District teacher, and instruction will match DCSD instructional expectations and standards for learning.  It is our hope that this platform for learning will serve as a bridge to create a smooth transition back to traditional schooling when available.   

 

Please email dcsdvirtual@darlington.k12.sc.us if you have additional questions. 

 

Parents may sign up for the virtual program. If for any reason you decide not to participate in the virtual program after you sign up, please email the address above. 

 

Carla M. Jefferson, Director of the Darlington County Virtual Academy


 

Frequently Asked Questions 

 

How will this virtual program look different from eLearning in the spring? 

We have found that a consistent schedule for families is integral.  For students in grades K-8, the virtual program will be set up much like a regular school day and will take place during regular school hours. All sessions will be broadcasted live, but teachers will also record lessons that will be available for families to review as needed.  In addition, teachers will host small group and individual sessions to provide additional support. The schedule will also accommodate independent time to work on assignments, engage in related arts activities, recess, and other breaks scheduled throughout the day. 

 

For students in grades 9-12, their virtual day will look much like a normal day. However, there will be flexibility for students to complete work on their time schedule. There will be live lessons and activities, but lessons will be recorded for students who are not available at the time of the live lesson. Teachers will have dedicated time each day to virtually meet with students to help them with work and assignments. 

 

What grades does the Darlington County Virtual Academy serve? 

The virtual program will serve students in five-year-old Kindergarten (5K) through 12th grade. Due to certification and state requirements, the district is unable to offer 4K enrollment in the Darlington County Virtual Academy.

 

 

 

Can I make my decision once I know what school will look like? 

Unfortunately, no.  To ensure we have teachers where we need them (classroom versus Virtual Program), we need to know how many students will opt for the Darlington County Virtual Academy now, because we are utilizing existing teachers from schools where students will be choosing the virtual option. 

 

How are students selected? 

Any student who applies will be accepted into the program. There is no lottery process. 

 

Is it necessary to have internet access to participate in the Virtual Academy?

Yes. Reliable internet is required to participate and is the responsibility of the parents/guardians.

 

Will you provide mobile hotspots to families that do not have internet access?

We are actively looking at finding ways to support our students who do not have internet access, but we currently are unable to guarantee mobile hotspots.  Location can sometimes be a problem, so streaming lessons may not be possible even with a mobile hotspot. 

 

How much does the program cost? 

The Darlington County Virtual Academy is free for students. The only exception is for high school students who choose to take more than a full schedule of courses. 

 

What calendar will the program follow? 

The Darlington County Virtual Academy will follow the Darlington County School District’s normal school calendar and observe all holidays. All DCSD schools are part of the state’s eLearning initiative which means instruction will continue even if the district is closed due to inclement weather.

 

Will I lose my magnet and/or expanded choice slot if I choose this option? 

No, all students will keep their magnet and/or choice slots if they choose to enroll in the Darlington County Virtual Academy.

 

Can my student return to in-person school if conditions improve? 

We are initially asking for parents to commit to a full year of virtual instruction.  This is because we are using certified DCSD teachers. Because staffing the virtual program requires the removal of teachers from traditional classrooms, we are asking parents to commit to a full year of virtual instruction.  However, if a family requests a transfer back to in-person instruction before or at the semester break (January), we will work for a mid-year transition, so long as appropriate space is available.

 

Can my student participate in extracurricular activities, including sports?

Yes; students may participate in extracurricular activities at the school where they are enrolled. If a student, for logistical reasons, is unable to participate in a certain extracurricular activity, you will be contacted so you can make an informed decision. 

 

Are all courses offered in the virtual program?

We are doing our best to offer every course the in-person schools offer. However, some courses will not be able to be offered due to the hands-on nature of the course, the limitations of the governing board of that program, or due to state restrictions. If a student has a course on their schedule that cannot be offered, you will be contacted so you can make an informed decision. 

 

What about classes at the Darlington County Institute of Technology (DCIT)?

Classes at the DCIT require a significant amount of hands-on training. Students can enroll in the Darlington County Virtual Academy and take classes in-person at the DCIT. Classes taught at DCIT will follow strict safety protocols, including proper protective equipment and distancing.

 

Will Gifted and Talented services still be offered in the virtual program? 

Yes; we will offer Gifted and Talented services to students who qualify. 

 

What about Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or Dual Credit (DC) courses?

It is our goal to be able to offer these programs and courses virtually. However, it is up to the governing board of each program and not the Darlington County School District to determine if that is possible. As a result, we encourage AP, IB, or DC students to go ahead and sign up for the Darlington County Virtual Academy if that is their preference. If we are unable to provide the courses, we will notify the families of the options and the families can determine how to proceed.

 

What about special education students or students who require special accommodations? Can a student with an IEP or 504 attend the virtual program? 

Yes, if you are interested in the Darlington County Virtual Academy, please apply. Your child’s IEP team will meet to review and identify individual accommodations that will be necessary to support your child’s unique needs. 

 

Will devices be provided? How will they receive them and other instructional materials?

Darlington County School District is a 1-to-1 district. All students in grades K-12 are provided with personal computing devices. Students 5K-8 are assigned iPads and high school students are assigned laptops. There will be a pick-up date for parents to pick up devices and any other supplies needed for the virtual program. This will be communicated by the school principal where your child is enrolled. The device pickup will be scheduled through your home school and the school principal will contact you with the schedule.

 

Can my child use our personal devices? 

No; students will need to use their district issued devices during virtual school learning. School issue devices have access to multiple programs at no cost to the student or parent through Self Service.  

 

Will my child be sitting in front of a computer all day?  

Absolutely not. Generally, children in grades K–5 do about 30-40 percent of the work online. They do much of the work offline—reading books, solving math problems on paper, drawing, and conducting science experiments. Middle school and high school students have more refined reading skills, so instruction and activities involve increased computer use according to educational standards. However, offline work will always be essential. 

 

 

Besides a computer, will my child receive textbooks and other instructional material?  

Yes, we provide all the textbooks and instructional materials that are needed to complete the program at no cost to families who are enrolled in an online public school program. These books and materials will be available at a destined location. 

 

What can students expect from a full-time virtual experience?

● Scheduled class time for elementary/middle with flexibility

● Flexible time for elementary, middle, and high school to complete course content

● Independent learning with supports

● Core, elective and specials, honors, and AP courses

● Extracurricular activities through enrolled neighborhood or choice school

● Ability to earn a high school diploma from an enrolled neighborhood school

 

Who will teach the virtual classes?

Our first priority is to provide experienced DCSD teachers who are knowledgeable, comfortable and fluent teaching virtual classes. In some cases, we may be called upon to bring in outside certified teachers to teach certain classes requiring specialized certification, if a DCSD teacher is not available. The Darlington County Virtual Academy classes and the in-person classes are not taught by the same teachers, except in rare circumstances.

 

Will attendance be taken?

Yes, attendance will be taken in all live sessions. In addition, student viewing of recorded sessions will be tracked. For students in grades 5K-9, attendance in live sessions will be required.  Initially, students in grades 10-12 will not be required to attend all live sessions as long as they can complete assignments successfully with no problems.  If a student who has not been attending live sessions is unable to keep up with assignments and expectations, they will be required to attend live sessions in order to remain in the program. 

 

How do I know if a full-time virtual option is the best fit for me or my child?

  • I am prepared to commit to a year (at minimum) as a full-time virtual school student.
  • I have broadband/wifi access at home so that I can work remotely.
  • My child is self-disciplined as a learner.
  • Time management is one of my child’s strengths.
  • In person face-to-face teacher interaction is not necessary for my child to learn.
  • My child likes working online and interacting with my teacher and peers through virtual class-time, online discussion boards, and collaborating with others on projects and assignments online.
  • If my child is in elementary school, he/she has parent/guardian support at home to help support my learning in the scheduled live lessons during regular school hours.
  • If my child is in middle school or high school, he/she has parent/guardian support at home to help support their learning. 

 

What is the role of the DCVA student?  

·       Enroll as a student taking all courses 

·       Follow a fixed school year schedule from August-June (daily attendance required) 

·       Start at the beginning of the semester with spring and fall enrollment periods 

·       Take all courses online with DCVA (state testing required) 

·       Every student is assigned to a DCSD certified teacher. 

·       Attend Live instruction provided by DCSD certified teachers 

·       Meet teachers and classmates through clubs, activities, and events 

·       Participate in field trips (once permissible)

 

What is the role of the DCVA parent? 

·       All educators agree that strong parental involvement is extremely important to a child's academic success. In public virtual schools, parents are active participants in their child's education, working in close partnership with teachers.  

·       Work closely with their children, guiding them through daily lessons 

·       Actively participate in their children's daily learning 

·       Record student academic progress 

·       Communicate with teachers on a regular basis to assess children's learning, academic achievement, etc. 

·       Become actively involved in parent groups, workshops, school functions and events, and student activities 

 

In the K–8 environment, the parent acts as a Learning Coach who facilitates progress through daily lessons.  In the high school program, the parent still plays an important supportive role to help the student stay on task and ensure follow-through on his or her assignments. During high school, though, the student is expected to start managing his or her own time and academic schedule more directly.