Lewisville-based iSchool Virtual Academy teaches high school students online. (Courtesy of iSchool Virtual Academy)
As Texas school districts return to face-to-face classes, the Lewisville-based iSchool Virtual Academy offers an online alternative for grades 9-12.
The charter school allows students to learn at their own pace and is one of the few programs approved by the Texas Education Agency to operate entirely online. The academy is one of six programs offered by Responsive Ed, a nonprofit organization that offers alternative learning methods for all grade levels.
“It’s not like a traditional classroom,” said Jake Kurz, Director of Communications for Responsive Ed, of the iSchool Virtual Academy. “It’s an individualized learning environment where students have to master the content before they can move on to the next subject or lesson. “
Kurz said that the iSchool Virtual Academy does not track class sizes because everything is asynchronous. He said teachers work with students individually to master concepts before moving on to the next subject. Kurz added that the method of communication is flexible: teachers and students can talk via email or schedule virtual meetings at their convenience.
“Because we’re all online, we teach students all over the state of Texas,” Kurz said. “They don’t have to be in Lewisville.”
Originally started as a charter school for recovering students after dropping out, Kurz said the format has drawn home students as well as athletes, fine arts students and others who have seen benefits in the flexible schedule while honing their talents. Some, he said, join simply because the public school in person was too easy for them.
“Students are highly motivated and may feel like they can browse through content faster than in [traditional] school, ”Kurz said.
He said iSchool has seen an increase in enrollments since the start of the pandemic. Interest has also grown since state lawmakers earlier this year failed to pass measures that would have funded e-learning for independent school districts.
“Since the death of Bill 1468 in the Texas Legislature, our program has generated a lot of interest,” iSchool Virtual Academy director Gary Arnold said in a press release. “Since 2011, virtual education has been our sole focus, and thousands of students have successfully graduated from our program over the past 10 years. “
Parents appreciated the school’s flexibility with registration dates, Kurz said. And because it’s a publicly funded charter school, the iSchool Virtual Academy is free.
Fall classes start August 10; registrations are always accepted.
“The virtual learning environment may not be for everyone,” Kurz said. “But we think it’s important to have the option for students where it really fits.”
WHAT IS A CHARTERED SCHOOL?
Charter schools are different from public and private schools. In Texas, charter schools are public schools open to any student, and these schools cannot charge tuition fees, according to the Texas Education Agency. These schools receive funds from the state based on the average daily attendance of students, and they can also accept donations from private or public sources, according to the TEA.
To learn more about the school, visit https://ischoolvirtual.com.