20 Frequently Asked Questions about PA Virtual Charter School
As part of our 20th anniversary celebration, we are bringing you a series of "Top 20" lists. With the upcoming school year right around the corner, you may be considering PA Virtual as an educational option for your child. In this post, we're providing you with the answers to our 20 most frequently asked questions.
1. Can you explain the basics of the school?
PA Virtual is a top-performing public cyber charter school serving students in grades k-12. As a cyber school, our students attend school online from their home with the in-person guidance and support from a parent or other responsible adult. We provide live, online classes and the option for a customizable schedule in a self-directed environment through a unique partnership between our parents and our PA-certified teachers. Our school was founded in 2001 and we currently serve around 2300 students across the state of Pennsylvania.
2. Is there a cost to attend?
As a public school, PA Virtual is funded by Pennsylvania Taxpayer dollars, so there is no cost to attend.
3. Will a computer be provided?
Yes, each student that enrolls with PA Virtual receives their own laptop (HP 450 G6), printer/scanner, and all curricular materials for the school year. These items are shipped directly to your home at no cost to the family. We also provide a monthly internet stipend ($35 per month, per family) to help offset internet costs.
4. How much time will my child spend on the computer?
This varies by grade level as well as by your educational model- synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous students will have more scheduled computer time, as they have regularly scheduled live, online classes throughout the day. Elementary students will have less screen time. They may complete activities in workbooks or use manipulatives to reinforce concepts they are learning in class.
Students in grades k-6 will complete an average of 5 hours of school work each school day. Students in grades 7-12 will complete an average of 5.5 hours of school work each school day.
5. Can you explain the instruction modes offered?
If you are looking for a more structured schedule that meets at specific times each day, then synchronous classes may better suit your needs. While a Learning Coach is still needed for synchronous classes, they offer the benefit of live, real-time teacher interaction and instruction. Students who follow a primarily synchronous plan will still have some asynchronous classes and lessons to complete, with the help and guidance of the Learning Coach.
If you are looking for a slightly more flexible schedule, then asynchronous classes may better suit your needs. Students taking asynchronous classes have a customizable schedule in a self-directed environment. Their day is managed by the adult at home, which we refer to as the Learning Coach. Their teacher plans their coursework, supervises their progress, and is available to teach 1:1 or in small groups.
6. What is the parent's role in this model?
During the school day, students must have a primary responsible adult at home – called the Learning Coach – to provide academic support and monitor their progress.
As a Learning Coach, you will be a key player on your student’s team, partnering with your child’s teachers and actively working alongside him or her every day. Direct parental participation during the school day can range from 80 percent for the early grades to about 50 percent for the high grades.
7. Do you teach Common Core?
Yes, as a public school in Pennsylvania, we must adhere to the state standards as set forth by the PA Department of Education, and that includes the common core.
8. What curriculum does PA Virtual use?
PA Virtual’s state-certified teachers lead students through their studies using the nationally recognized K12, Inc. curriculum and other widely known and highly-recognized curriculum such as Edgenuity.
9. Can my child use a different curriculum?
Students must follow our curriculum but may follow your own in addition.
10. How does Physical Education work?
Physical education is conducted asynchronously at all grade levels. Students in k-8 are required to log up to one hour each week of structured, organized and supervised activities. In grades 7 and higher, the P.E. course is taught by a certified teacher. High school students take one credit of Physical Education as part of their graduation requirements. Many students go beyond our requirements to take part in sports and other recreational activities in their local communities.
11. How do students socialize in this model?
Our students may take part in many educational and social outings statewide each year. These include field trips and outings to museums, zoos, parks, and other community destinations. In addition, our students can sign up for our many virtual clubs as well as participate in extracurricular activities at their local school districts.
12. What time does school start?
Every student’s schedule is a little different, but our live classes begin at 8:15am.
13. How is attendance taken?
Attendance is recorded daily by logging into Blackboard, our ‘virtual schoolhouse’. In addition, student participation in synchronous and asynchronous classes is documented by both the teacher and the Learning Coach. All students must complete 900 school hours (K-6th) or 990 school hours (7th-12th) annually in accordance with state law.
14. What electives does PA Virtual offer?
All students in grades k-8 take Art, Music, and Physical Education as part of the curriculum. Our high school students do have elective options. You can review our high school course catalog for a full listing of courses that are offered.
15. Does PA Virtual hold a graduation ceremony for high school seniors?
Yes. PA Virtual holds a cap-and-gown graduation ceremony in Harrisburg each spring.
16. Are there age requirements for enrollment?
Yes. PA Virtual enrolls school-age students, as defined by the PA Department of Education. This includes students from the age of 5 through 21. To enroll in kindergarten, children must meet the age requirements of their resident school district.
17. If my child takes asynchronous courses, are there specific hours they must complete schoolwork?
As an asynchronous student, you do have a slightly more flexible schedule. We do recommend the majority of schoolwork is done during the hours of 8am-4pm, so your family can communicate with their teacher(s) and take advantage of our support services and school administration. As a general rule, schoolwork is submitted on a weekly basis.
18. How does PA Virtual personalize learning for each student?
PA Virtual uses formal and informal assessments to determine each student’s need, then provides ongoing lessons and activities to support each child’s academic growth. If a student is ahead or behind in a subject, our assessments will help us to be aware and provide appropriate support if necessary.
If an advanced learner is looking for more of a challenge, they can complete additional lessons for further enrichment opportunities. If a student needs additional help, they can attend online help sessions or connect with their teachers during regularly scheduled office hours.
19. What if my child has an IEP?
We adhere to applicable federal and state laws that govern special education. Each student with an IEP is assigned a PA-certified special education teacher. That teacher works with a regular education teacher, parent or guardian, and other team members to create an appropriate IEP and implement each student’s specially designed instruction.
20. How do I enroll?
You can begin the enrollment process by completing the application form on our website. After you apply, you will receive an email with next steps.
If you'd like to get your questions answered live and find out if PA Virtual would be a good fit for your family, we invite you to attend an upcoming Online Open House.