Fargo Public Schools plans to roll out changes to virtual academy amid complaints from parents

The virtual academy was an option the district made available to parents and students amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 7:02 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Fargo’s school district is making changes to its virtual academy after parents complained, but what the changes will look like is still in the works.

Missy Eidsness, associate superintendent for Fargo Public Schools, said the district did not expect the technology problems it has experienced.

The academy has been hard not only on parents and students, but Eidsness said also on teachers.

Robin Abrahamson called our Whistleblower Hotline to express her frustrations with the virtual academy.

Abrahamson’s 7-year-old son is a student at McKinley Elementary. To avoid disruption, she enrolled him in the virtual academy. But now, she said she’s having buyers remorse.

“I was under the impression...where they would have recordings and something we could watch after I get off work and we could do homework then. But no. There’s no recordings,” Abrahamson said.

The virtual academy was an option the district made available to parents and students amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s strictly online and is different from the remote learning students do under the hybrid model, where they also split time with in-person learning. That will change, however, come October 5 when middle and high school students transition to full-time distance learning.

In the academy, parents were required to keep their child enrolled for at least a semester.

Abrahamson said as a single working parent with three children, it’s been difficult juggling a job and monitoring her child.

“There’s no ability to do it after hours. It’s literally if they’re not there, they’re absent. And it’s going to affect them,” Abrahamson said.

In July, the district told parents they could sign on anytime and watch videos with their child. What changed?

“So what we originally thought it looked like, it kind of evolved from there,” Eidsness said. “I will tell you that we have been meeting with our virtual academy teachers and we think we still have some more evolving to do with it.”

According to Eidsness, there are parents who are satisfied with the virtual academy and like the structure.

Still, the district is planning to roll out changes to accommodate working parents by giving them options.

“I would say when I called other districts, we are having more live time than other districts,” Eidsness said. “And I will say that is why we are meeting with the teachers and administrators of the virtual academy to discuss that.”

Fourteen percent of Fargo Public School students are enrolled in the virtual academy, according to the district. Of that number, 740 are elementary students.

For parents interested in enrolling their children in the virtual academy, Fargo administrators said the registration window for the next semester will open some time in mid-November.

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