Frequently Asked Questions About PA Virtual Charter School (Socialization & Family Support)
We recently hosted a Facebook Live session to answer the questions we get asked the most about two important topics when considering online learning: socialization and family support. Director of Student Services, Jason Fitzpatrick and Chief Human Resources & Marketing Officer, Sherri Tate also took questions live from the audience. We've compiled a list below of the questions people asked regarding socialization and family support specifically, as well as some general questions people asked about PA Virtual Charter School.
Frequently Asked Questions About Socialization and Family Support at PA Virtual Charter School
- How do students socialize in a cyber school?
Our students are offered the opportunity to take part in many academic and social outings statewide each year. These include trips to museums, zoos, parks, and other community destinations. Each of our eight (8) Family Support Coordinators (FSC) plan one outing per month, excluding months when state testing is taking place and during the summer. We also offer over 20 virtual clubs and activities to support various interests including a gaming, photography, and writing club as well as many others. In addition, our students are eligible to participate in extracurricular activities at their local school districts.
- What supports for homework do you provide?
We offer drop-in tutoring services and our teachers have scheduled online office hours each week. All of our live classes are recorded which allows students the opportunity to go back and review a lesson if necessary. Our teachers use supplemental tools such as Study Island and Exact Path, which help our students reinforce concepts and subject skills. Additionally, we have a team of Academic Support Staff to offer extra learning support for students as needed.
In addition to academics, what other supports do you offer families?
We have a full student support services department dedicated to helping our families with non-academic needs. Families are partnered with a Family Support Coordinator (FSC) who serves as their first point of contact, assists with technology and attendance concerns, and plans regional monthly outings. Our Pupil Health department strives to keep our students healthy and compliant with statewide health regulations, and they hold over 30 free health screenings across the state annually. In addition, our Parent Ambassador Program offers opportunities for parent education and engagement, providing parents with helpful resources, weekly online learning sessions, parent certificate programs, and an optional mentor program. We also have guidance counselors for all grade levels, new student orientation, and the Student Assistance Program.
Do students have opportunities to participate in sports, band or choir at their local school district?
Students enrolled at PA Virtual (or any PA cyber charter school) are eligible to participate in their local school district’s extracurricular activities per PA charter school law. This is a great opportunity for students to connect with other children in their local community. Parents should contact their local district to find out when sign-ups/try-outs are. Your local district should be able to help you sign up your child.
- Does your school provide services for students with an IEP?
PA Virtual adheres 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. This includes occupational, speech, and physical therapy.
Frequently Asked Questions About PA Virtual Charter School (General)
Are your courses typically asynchronous or synchronous?
There are two possible learning paths for students: synchronous or asynchronous. Students taking synchronous courses attend daily live classes and receive real-time instruction from our state-certified teachers. If you are looking for a slightly more flexible schedule, then asynchronous classes may better suit your needs. Students taking asynchronous courses have a customizable schedule in a self-directed environment. Their day is managed by the adult at home – the Learning Coach. Their teacher plans their coursework, supervises their progress, and is available to teach 1:1 or in small groups.
- What is the role of the parent in this model?
PA Virtual requires that a parent/guardian/Learning Coach remains at home with the student while the student is attending school in order to provide academic support to the student. The Learning Coach can be a parent, grandparent, neighbor, etc. Learning Coaches will be a key players on your student’s team, partnering with your child’s teachers and actively working alongside him or her every day.
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. Your children will spend approximately 5-6 hours a day on schoolwork, dependent on his or her grade level. Direct parental participation during the school day can range from 80 percent for the early grades to about 50 percent for high school students.
How does your program differ from the cyber program provided by the school district?
It's difficult to fully compare our school to cyber programs offered by school districts across the state since they each work in different ways. As one of the first cyber schools in the state, we have been transforming the way students learn online since 2001 and we are the top-performing cyber charter school in PA according to School Performance Profile results released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education in December 2018. We use the highly-respected K12 curriculum and we offer both live (online) classes and independent classes at all grade levels, providing flexibility in learning style for our students. All of our students have the support and guidance of a state-certified teacher. In addition to academic support, we have staff dedicated to non-academic support. They help with things like guidance services, college and career planning, pupil health services, field trips, attendance, technical support, orientation for new families, parent support and learning, and more.
- Do students have to log in and log out at set times each day?
Every student’s schedule is a little different, but our live classes begin at 8:15am. Although asynchronous students may not have scheduled live classes, all students are required to log into Blackboard (our Learning Management System) by 8:30am, as noted in the Student Handbook.
In order for a student’s legal attendance to be counted, he/she MUST log into Blackboard each day that school is in session. If the student skips logging into Blackboard, it is the equivalent of skipping or arriving late to homeroom at a brick and mortar school (B&M) and not checking in with the office before heading off to class. If students miss these important steps at a local school district, they are marked absent for the day, and it is the same here at PA Virtual.
In addition, students are expected to attend all assigned synchronous classes scheduled each school day, as listed on their schedule. It is the responsibility of the parents at PA Virtual to provide an excuse when their child is absent from school.
- How can I enroll my child at your school?
You can start the enrollment process by filling out an application form on our website. Once you fill out the application, you'll receive an email to schedule an introductory call with an enrollment specialist. During that phone call, they'll explain the PA Virtual model, answer you questions, and walk you through the next steps of the process.
Have a question that isn't listed above? Check out our FAQ page to find answers to questions related to academics, the enrollment process, and more.
Interested in learning more about PA Virtual? Get a chance to ask your questions live at one of our upcoming online Open Houses!
This online Open House will be much like an open house you would attend at any other school. You will learn about our curriculum and teaching methods, you will get a peek inside our virtual classroom and see how it works, you’ll get a hands-on demonstration of the technology we use, and of course you will get to meet other parents and staff here at PA Virtual Charter School.