NYC Education Dept. planning to open two virtual schools – New York Daily News

The New York City Education Department is planning to open two “virtual academies” to give public school students more opportunities to learn online.

“We intend to open two brand-new virtual schools so that students have more flexibility in how they go to school,” Deputy Chancellor Carolyne Quintana said at a City Council budget hearing Tuesday.

The Education Department hasn’t spelled out how the virtual academies will work, how students qualify, who will teach the remote classes, and whether students will be virtual full-time, but promised more details soon. An agency spokesman declined to share a start date, but Schools Chancellor David Banks has previously said he hopes to launch a virtual school as early as September.

Debate about a permanent virtual option peaked last spring as the city prepared to shift back to in-person learning. Some families pushed for access to remote classes because of lingering COVID-19 concerns, while others said their kids preferred virtual learning.

Putting together a fully virtual school for city students might not be as big a lift as it appears, said Tom Liam Lynch, the director of education policy at the Center for New York City Affairs and former Education Department technology official.

“They have certain very key pieces in place already that they can build on,” said Lynch. For one, the Education Department already has a custom-made online learning platform called iLearn that’s loaded up with curriculum resources and syncs with the department’s antiquated attendance and grading systems.

The city began experimenting with virtual teaching before the pandemic through a pilot program where high school students could access virtual versions of Advanced Placement and foreign language courses not offered at their regular schools. That experience could provide a model for how to train educators to take on virtual classes and work around the constraints of the union contract for remote teaching work, Lynch said.

Lynch speculated that there could be several reasons to open two virtual academies, including separating younger and older kids, or kids who want full-time digital classes and those interested in more a la carte options.

Banks said during the City Council hearing that the new academies won’t just be enrolled for the kids.

“We’re going to use those schools as also labs of innovation … that informs how we will teach all our students virtually,” he said.

Leave a Comment