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CSSS offers tribal students Florida Virtual School option

As the 2020-21 school year enters its final quarter, the Center for Student Success & Services (CSSS) is focused on enrollment for the 2021-22 year and recently hosted an online informational session about Florida Virtual School (FLVS).

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we found many schools were not versed in the virtual modality,” said Michael Giacchino, CSSS director. “The transition to online teaching impacted the students. FLVS has been doing it successfully for a long time.”

Founded in 1997 as the country’s first statewide internet-based public school, FLVS provides K-12 education to students in Florida and around the world. There is no cost for Florida students. Students earn a standard high school diploma, all teachers are certified and follow state educational standards.

“A lot of students have struggled with e-learning,” said Shavonna Daniels, CSSS K-12 program manager. “We wanted to provide a resource to our families. All the [FLVS] teachers are well versed in e-learning and have been doing it for years.”

During the WebEx session March 9, Dr. Yamilca Gomez, district relations manager for FLVS, explained how the online school works. There are two programs, Flex and Full Time.

The Flex program is open year round for elementary, middle and high school students. The elementary program offers core classes including language arts, math, science and social studies as well as electives and specials such as art, computer science, Spanish and physical education. Homeschool students usually use the Flex program.

The middle and high school students may choose from more than 190 core and elective courses. Electives include keyboarding, computer programing and coding essentials, photography and career research.

Students are expected to turn in the work on a weekly basis and teachers provide feedback through email. Although there are no one-on-one daily lessons, students may set up an appointment with the teacher for individual help.
Students work at their own pace but if they don’t complete work for three weeks, FLVS will withdraw the student.
The Flex program may also be utilized to make up classes and fulfill graduation requirements for students in traditional schools. All credits are transferable to a student’s school of record. Since the Flex program is not a school of record, attendance is not taken.

“There was a gap that needed to be filled in regards to summer learning,” Daniels said. “Students typically lose information over the summer. The Flex program offers students an opportunity to bridge that gap and then go back to their home schools.”

The Full Time program is all about structured flexibility. Students attend a fixed, 180-day school year schedule from August to June. Students take six courses per semester and participate in state testing. Courses are available 24/7 online, so students can study any time and any place.

About 11,000 students are enrolled in FLVS and class size is not an issue.

“We have plenty of teachers,” Gomez said. “Very few courses have a wait list, but those students are usually placed within 48 hours. Parents like the structure; students just log in.”

Students receive a chart that shows what assignments are due each week. Attendance is taken every day during homeroom and FLVS monitors truancy.

“The Full Time program is more for families who need a school that specializes in e-learning,” Daniels said. “The credits are transferable as long as it is a school under the umbrella of FLVS. Flex credits are transferable regardless of whether the school is in the FLVS system.”

Communication with teachers in FLVS can be more convenient than other schools because FLVS teachers are available until 8 p.m., which is helpful for some families.

CSSS will host another meeting with FLVS for families June 8 from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Registration and other information will be discussed. CSSS shares information about the session via email flyers and the CSSS website, and advisors will contact families directly.

“We don’t promote schools, we generally pass along the availability to speak to the community,” Giacchino said. “We offer them FLVS because virtual school is what they do. I’ve known people who have gone through FLVS since 2005; they know what they are doing.”

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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