Dec. 13, 2013
By Liz Margolis, AAPS Communications Director
Exciting changes are coming to the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Next month the district is launching the A2 Virtual+ Academy, which will increase online offerings for students in grades 5-12. And starting on Dec. 16, those students will be able to enroll in online courses for the second semester.
So what is the A2 Virtual+ Academy, and how will it serve our students?
The A2 Virtual+ Academy
The A2 Virtual+ Academy will be available at A2virtual.org, and it will feature a catalog of online classes offered by AAPS. The State of Michigan will also offer a catalog of classes at micourses.org that will include a list of online class offerings from around the state. The A2 Virtual+ Academy classes will include the robust list of classes AAPS already offers students as well as additional classes that AAPS curriculum leaders are developing.
The district already offers some online options, called the Options Program, for 9-12th graders at Community, Huron, Pioneer, Skyline, and A2 Tech. Around 240 students are enrolled in AAPS’ Options Program for reasons such as credit recovery, personal illness, or personal preference. The district has offered online courses through various programs since 2001.
“This is an exciting time for Ann Arbor Public Schools as we look to expand our online program with the creation of A2 Virtual+ Academy,” said Anthony Lauer, AAPS Online and Options Magnet Coordinator. “Students in our district and districts from around the state will continue to seek out online and blended course options as alternatives to traditional courses as they develop their personal learning path. The creation of A2 Virtual+ Academy will create a clearer path for students and parents to get access to rigorous online courses offered by Ann Arbor Public Schools and opens the possibility of revenue generating opportunities to sustain the program.”
The district’s online program is growing as new state legislation gives students in grades 5-8 the opportunity to take online classes as part of their traditional school day. State of Michigan Public Act 60, Section 21F permits students to enroll in up to two online classes that will replace classes that a student traditionally takes in a classroom. AAPS covers the costs of all online course fees and expenses, such as textbooks and software whether the course is provided in or outside the Ann Arbor Public School district.
The state has imposed a cap for the course fee directly related to the district’s per-pupil funding. This means the A2 Virtual+ Academy has the potential to generate revenue for the AAPS as out-of-district students enroll in AAPS’ online classes.
District to provide more mentors for students
AAPS already provides certified mentor services for the 9-12th graders enrolled in online classes. District administrators estimate needing to double online instructional teaching and mentoring staff now that the online course offerings will also be open to 5th-8th graders.
The district will ensure that online courses meet AAPS’ academic standards, said AAPS Executive Director of Instructional Technology Merri Lynn Colligan.
Academy staff are creating processes to manage the in-district and out-of-district online enrollments, a fee structure for course costs, and administrative procedures to determine if a student may enroll in an online course. Student eligibility will be determined on academic prerequisites, the course’s relevance and adherence to AAPS academic standards.
Cindy Leaman will serve as Principal of the A2 Virtual+ Academy starting in January 2014. (Tamber Woodworth will serve as interim Principal at Pioneer.)
A2 Virtual+ Academy and the new state law
State of Michigan Public Act 60, Section 21F is part of Governor Rick Snyder’s educational plan that he developed with the Oxford Foundation. This public act will impact course offerings for students, per-pupil funding for the district and district expenditures. Although this public act doesn’t require the district to offer online classes, it does require a district to allow students to take online courses, so the A2Virtual+ Academy will open its catalog to students across the state.
The primary goal of A2 Virtual+ Academy is to service AAPS students, but district officials say they are confident that its online catalog will attract students from across the state.
District administrators will continue working carefully and thoughtfully as the district implements the A2 Virtual+ Academy. These plans include:
- Setting prices for the online classes
- Placing mentoring and teaching staff for online students
- Reviewing courses for rigor and relevance
- Advertising AAPS online offerings next summer to AAPS and out-of-district students
As the A2 Virtual+ Academy evaluates course demand and student experience, the district will open one course to out-of-district students through micourses.org in January 2014. Any AAPS student in grades 5-12 interested in an online course should contact the A2 Virtual+ academy at 994-2026 or the visit the website at www.A2virtual.org.
Stay tuned to the AAPS News for more updates on the A2 Virtual+ Academy.
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