The Journal Gazette
Thursday, July 01, 2021 1:00 am

Spots open for FWCS virtual academy

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Families seeking an online-only option for the upcoming academic year can still sign up for Fort Wayne Community Schools' new virtual school.

An enrollment lottery process for Fort Wayne Virtual Academy was open from June 1 to June 18. Demand fell short of the 720-student capacity.

“At every grade level we have space,” spokeswoman Krista Stockman said Wednesday.

FWCS has about 230 applications, she said. At the elementary level, all grades K-5 have fewer than 15 applications except for fourth grade. At the secondary level, all grades have more than 20 applicants except for sixth grade.

The district is limiting enrollment to 50 students per elementary grade level and 60 students per middle and high school grade level. There will be a minimum of 15 students per grade level.

When FWCS announced the program in May, officials said they wouldn't know the demand until the lottery opened, but they referred to a survey indicating there was enough support to make it a viable option.

“It's probably lower than some people might have expected,” Stockman said of the initial demand.

She said multiple factors – including parents not being ready to think about the 2021-22 year – likely influenced the results of the June lottery period.

“Parents were burned out by the end of the year like students and staff were,” Stockman said.

The district's decision Tuesday to relax mask guidelines beginning today could prompt more interest in the online academy, especially at the elementary level, Stockman said. The COVID-19 vaccine is not yet available for children younger than 12.

FWCS will encourage indoor mask use at elementary schools for all students in fifth grade and younger. It will recommend masks for unvaccinated employees and unvaccinated middle and high school students while inside any district building – a policy that relies on the honor system.

The district previously heard from parents who said they would be uncomfortable having their child in the school building if masks weren't required, Stockman said.

That is “one of the reasons why we wanted to make sure we had a virtual option,” she said.

Families can apply for Fort Wayne Virtual Academy through the FWCS Parent Portal accessible at Spots will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis, Stockman said.

Any students in grades K-12 living in Allen County and any adjacent Indiana county – Adams, DeKalb, Huntington, Noble, Wells and Whitley – are eligible to enroll.

Participants will be asked to sign an agreement about the program's guidelines, which address attendance.

“This isn't a way for kids to get out of going to school,” Stockman said.

She encouraged parents to act soon because enrollment affects staffing. For instance, she said, a grade level with only 15 participants would require only one teacher, not two. “Those are the kind of decisions we need to start making,” Stockman said.

Classes begin Aug. 16.

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