May 2, 2021–2:26 p.m.
The application process is now open for parents and students who are considering a virtual option for school next year.
Rome City Schools is offering their families a true virtual option for learning where children from kindergarten through 12th grade will have access to educators in a virtual setting. The goal is to provide the most effective learning environment possible outside of attending in-person classes.
Dr. Dawn Williams, assistant superintendent of Rome City Schools, outlined a few important things to remember if the new RCS Virtual Learning Academy is the direction some families want to go for the 2021-2022 school year.
“What we are offering for next year is a separate program for virtual learning, but it is not a separate school,” Dr. Williams explained. “This past year, our virtual learning program ran through each school. Next year, our virtual learning academy will have a principal who is Dr. Christy Epps. She will organize all communications, events, and other activities for children in that program. The students in our virtual program will no longer be affiliated with the school they currently attend. However, our sixth through twelfth-grade students will be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities at the high school. We are going to keep that connection with our middle and high school students. The K-8 program will look similar to what we have now because those classes will still be taught by our RCS teachers and it will be live, regularly scheduled classes. That is important because we wanted to keep the live teaching element for our younger students. Our 9-12 grade students will be offered classes through Georgia Virtual School—which is a change for us—but we wanted to allow those students as many opportunities as possible. This was the only way we could offer as many courses as in-person learning students have. All students interested in this program must meet the requirements and register with RCS and with Georgia Virtual School.”
Dr. Williams also pointed out that students who wish to enroll in virtual classes will not have the option to return to in-person learning for the remainder of the year. There will not be a drop-add period, so families need to be sure they want to attend the RCS Virtual Learning Academy for the duration of the 2021-2022 school year. Also, the educators with Georgia Virtual School will not be Rome City Schools teachers. Georgia Virtual School is not new to the state and has been offering these services to students seeking alternative methods of learning long before the pandemic brought the world to a standstill.
Georgia has been running this program for many, many years. Their program has grown since more and more students are looking for virtual learning opportunities,” Dr. Williams said. “Homeschooled students and many of Georgia’s charter schools use this program and we have used them in the past for classes we don’t offer. For example, we have use Georgia Virtual School for transfer students who may need a class that we do not offer. They have access to additional classes through Georgia Virtual School. That connection has already been long established in our system.”
Rome City Schools students will have access to all the core classes offered through the system and the AP class options as well. Additionally, CTAE offerings for virtual learning are also quite extensive through the RCS Virtual Learning Academy. While the CTAE class list will not include all the options at Rome High, the students will be able to choose pathways that interest them from a list offered through Georgia Virtual School.
“Our system wants to provide the best possible option for virtual learning we could, and we feel like this is the best plan for their success. Virtual learning is a choice many of our families are considering, so we wanted to provide the best opportunities for them,” said Dr. Williams. “If they do not find the educational plan they are looking for, then we will still have in-person learning on our school campuses.”
The virtual program does have an enrollment cap, so if students are considering this option, they should start the application process immediately. Dr. Williams said school administrators are reporting that space is filling up. The registration and application window will be open until school starts after the summer break. Rome City Schools is currently accepting all students who wish to take advantage of the many opportunities offered by the RCS system, including tuition students.
Another important factor for RCS families to consider is testing. Students enrolled in virtual classes will still be required to take yearly Milestones tests for grades 3-8. High school students will also be required to take all tests required for graduation. Students enrolled in virtual classes will be required to test on campus, and Rome City Schools will follow all CDC guidelines during that testing period.
“Our goal is, and always has been, to provide our families with options for educating their children,” Dr. Williams said. “We have accepted the challenge of providing a quality education plan for our students, even if they have to learn from home. So, we are excited about the opportunity to help our students to succeed and offer as many alternative ways to learn as we possibly can.”