Lawmakers learn about virtual academies, an ‘option for students’

Published 9:30 am Thursday, October 19, 2023

Lawmakers on the Interim Joint Education Committee learned about virtual academies from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and Cloverport Independent Schools, which could become a third option besides in-school learning and home schooling.

KDE and the Kentucky Virtual Academy of the Cloverport Independent Schools were on hand to explain how the academy operates and answer questions from legislators.

Sallie Johnson, principal of the academy, located in Breckenridge County, testified that a school with virtual instruction fills a need some students and parents seek.

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“This is my third year participating in a virtual school, and I love that we have options for students,” she said. “I was a past special education teacher, and what I found is a comprehensive, in-person school is not always the right fit for our children. And it is just exciting that there is this new innovative process for school students to access school through virtual learning.”

Rep. Killian Timoney, R-Nicholasville, and an educator in the Fayette County Public Schools, said there is no statewide virtual academy now, but they would be well received.

Marty Park, chief digital officer for the KDE’s Office of Education Technology, said Timoney is correct about the statewide virtual academy, though virtual learning has been offered in schools for several years.

“Virtual options became necessary and expanded through the pandemic,” Park stated.  “A lot of times the programs in our school districts were designed around an emergency strategy of online virtual learning.  What we’re talking about today is very much not emergency based design.  It’s very much around intentional design for high quality teaching and learning.”

Rep. Emily Callaway, R-Louisville, said she supports virtual academy learning, but also has concerns.  “I think this is a great opportunity.  It does put back into the hands of parents some different learning environments for their kids. And so, I think this is absolutely wonderful, and I appreciate the details.  I do also share concerns about safety of the kids and the extracurricular activities.”