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No Classroom, No Problem (Part 2)

No Classroom, No Problem (Part 2)
Posted on 03/07/2019
A Jeffco Virtual Academy middle school student watches a documentary about the holocaust as part of a class discussion of the novel, “The Boy in The Striped Pajamas.” While the bulk of their learning is done online, JVA middle schoolers spend one day a week at the Academy campus in Lakewood.The virtual part of Jeffco Virtual Academy (JVA) means a lot of student time spend with the help of computers and virtual learning spaces, including Schoology, Blackboard, and Google Hangout. JVA students enroll for a wide range of reasons.

For Katrina Wright, the decision to finish her high school education this way gives her the flexibility to run a rescue operation for farm animals in Elbert County. She goes online after a full morning of providing for the critters at Peachy Farms, including a small group of llamas, in all kinds of weather.

Wright knows she has to keep focused if she is to graduate on-time as a JVA student in May. It’s not easy, given the endless farm tasks required of her, not to mention the many pleas for belly rubs from her dog and study companion, Bullet.

“You have to be very dedicated to work,” said Wright. “Whether you’re doing anything else, you have to get the schoolwork done in a timely fashion.”

JVA follow’s Jeffco’s curriculum, so the courses are aligned with other schools in the district.

“We have a folder in our Schoology system that has a week’s worth of work. A guide to the week, a pacing guide for the student. Here’s what you’re doing this week.” explained JVA principal Bernard Hohman. “There are articles to read, there are PDFs, there are links to other resources.”

“It’s the same work. It’s just done in a different platform.,” added JVA counselor Suzanne Jimenez. “I still meet with students face-to-face frequently. But I text with the kids a lot, I email a lot, we do a lot of phone conversations.”

A student’s time at JVA is not just clicking from home and never interacting with anyone. A successful JVA education only happens with strict time management, organization, and self-discipline, and that can be hard for students in the beginning.

“My first year when I started, I was a mess. I was overwhelmed, I was frustrated, and I couldn’t figure it out. But as soon as I got it down, it was so easy, and I got through it,” said Wright.

JVA’s flexible learning mission give students like Wright the independence to learn on their own with required regular teacher check-ins. For others, they supplement their online education with a weekly visit to JVA’s home base in Lakewood, where the lessons are taught in-person, like a one about the Holocaust novel, “The Boy in The Striped Pajamas.” A classroom away, a JVA instructor led a math discussion, while a pop quiz in civil war history was happening in a third spot.

“Checking in, sitting down next to a teacher, and getting that little extra support that you might need that one day a week,” Hohman said about what makes JVA more than just an online school.
There are classes for gifted and talented, AP classes, and concurrent enrollment with Red Rocks Community College, too.

Farm animal rescue is one of the more unusual reasons students like Katrina Wright choose JVA. Others include high achieving student hockey players who are polishing their skills in Canada, or the JVA student who is studying abroad in Spain while using the Academy to finish her academic credits. For a few, this learning pathway helps them continue their learning after expulsion. For others, it’s to escape bullying or school anxiety.

“Sometimes we’re that bridge,” explained Hohman. “They take a semester or two with us to feel good about school and they might go back to a home school or neighborhood school.”

Some of the students who enroll at JVA have medical conditions.

“We have some students that have bone marrow transplants going on or chemotherapy and they can’t be in their traditional school that is still able to be with us,” said Jimenez.

For those who stay with JVA to the finish, students can opt for a traditional graduation ceremony, where the feelings of pride and accomplishment are just as sweet. In Katrina Wright’s case, it will make her the first person in her family to have finished high school.

“It means a lot. I got through it, but if it wasn’t for the people standing behind me, there would’ve been no way that I would’ve continued,” said Wright. “You’re going to have issues and never make it to where you want to be.”

“It’s a great way to reach students than traditional programs,” said Jimenez.

“That’s what I really love about our school. We can find what works for you. We can try to help you find what works for you as a student,” added Hohman.

See the JPS-TV version of this story here or below.

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