MALONE, NY (WCAX) – One North Country School has decided to keep virtual learning optional for its K-12 students indefinitely. They call it Torch Academy. Our Kelly O’Brien learned more about the program and spoke with a student who says her experience was a success.
Over the past year, a lot of your meetings or classes were probably online. While some people hated the idea of going virtual, for others it was beneficial. If beneficial, it is added to the curriculum of a cooperative education services board or district of BOCES.
“I think it’s our obligation to provide a number of different pathways for children and that will be part of that,” said Shawn McMahon, Executive Director of North End FEH BOCES.
Franklin, Essex and Hamilton BOCES is in 10 districts across the three counties. It is the first BOCES in the region to maintain e-learning.
It offers two platforms. The first is similar to virtual learning where you are in front of a camera with a teacher. The second assigns a program to a student and performs tasks over an 18-week period.
“I was a little skeptical at first, I’m not going to lie to you,” said Jordyn Holbrook, a senior at Chateaugay Central School District.
Holbrook took his economics class at the academy and said virtual learning allows him to work at his own pace.
As long as a student, like Holbrook, completes all of the work, they can complete the course sooner, which she took advantage of to focus on other classroom and final work that was not virtual.
“We’re actually supposed to finish June 3, but I finished at the end of April,” Holbrook said.
The program follows New York standards and all teachers are New York certified, but they are not necessarily local.
The asynchronous learning style allows the student to do schoolwork according to their schedule. An example in the trades, it allows the student to work on site during the day and do class work afterwards.
“These kids can gain more experience in the trade and what they want to do in the future for their careers,” McMahon said.
It also allows students a wider range of courses that their home districts may not offer.
Students who wish to enroll must also sign a contract where their progress is monitored every two weeks.
“We want to make sure that we have settings in place that you know are not for you and that you need to go back to in-person learning in your home district,” said Lori Tourville, deputy superintendent of teaching at FEH BOCES.
BOCES says this option is not for all students and does not replace the benefits of being physically in a classroom with a teacher, but if it can help a student be successful, it is well worth it.
“There are kids who really found out during the pandemic that it was great,” Tourville said. “They really excelled.
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