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Bryan ISD staff provide update on virtual academy at Monday’s school board meeting

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 10:43 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - The Bryan ISD Board of Trustees received an update at Monday’s school board meeting on the virtual academy the district is looking to start.

It’s a learning option Bryan ISD aims to bring its kindergarten through 6th graders. Staff updated board members on what its virtual academy could look like and who might be eligible to attend.

“We’ll actually be expanding the survey to include any resident in the Bryan ISD area, even if you’re not currently enrolled in Bryan ISD, you would still be eligible to enroll in the virtual academy,” Associate Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Barbara Ybarra said.

Ybarra says the district has received about 170 applicants who are interested in attending, which breaks down to between 17 and 33 students per grade level between K through 6th. The district is reviewing each of those students’ records to determine if they meet eligibility requirements.

She also explained some of the new provisions in Senate Bill 15 that Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a couple of weeks ago. It enabled virtual learning expansion across the state.

“There’s a new clause in the statute, and with good reason, that a teacher cannot be asked to do both on-campus and online instruction at the same time,” Ybarra said. “We need to look for applicants who want to dedicate fully to a virtual school.”

The board expressed some differing opinions about the potential size of the academy since it has been scaled down to focus only on elementary school students for the time being.

“I also think that this is not necessarily something that is going to go away, and so if we have to start, starting small is not necessarily always a bad case,” board president Mark McCall said.

“I don’t want us to just feel like we have to have this academy, so we have to go pull kids out of a hat to get the number up so we on the board don’t change our mind,” board secretary Felicia Benford said.

In terms of opening for instruction, it really depends on staffing. There’s no specific date to begin, but the district hopes the virtual academy can be up and running before the end of the current semester.

“Now that we’re kind of gauging student interest and looking to see how many families want to see a virtual school for their children, then we start looking at what kind of staffing availability do we have to be able to make that opportunity possible for them,” Ybarra said.

Ybarra says they’ll bring the results of the expanded survey back to the board in October, along with which students appear to be a good fit for the program and a viable staffing solution.

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