WIVA and WIDCA adds social emotional education to curriculum

Originally published in the West Bend Daily News - August 28, 2020

The Wisconsin Virtual Academy and Destinations Career Academy of Wisconsin, through Education: K12 Inc., is preparing for the 2020-21 school year with an increase in student enrollment, added staff and a focus on the social/emotional well-being of its students.

Since August 2019, enrollment at WIVA K-8 has doubled.

Before COVID-19, Education: K12 Inc. planned to hire more than 1,300 educators nationwide for the upcoming school year. As of July 15, more than 6,000 educators were already employed.

K12 also reported revenue of $1.04 billion in the full fiscal year 2020 compared to 2019 revenues of $1.015 billion.

“The experience in distance learning through brick and mortar schools helped them (families) understand virtual is something they’re interested in,” said WIVA Principal/Academic Administrator Desiree Rahmlow. “Some families know their school is offering face-to-face, and they have lots to love about their brick and mortar district, but they’re not comfortable with face-to-face this fall.”

She said one aspect that draws families to WIVA is that it is a public school which offers standards-driven instruction with state-certified, licensed teachers.

“We offer an educational experience that is going to result in high achievement,” Rahmlow said. WIVA also aims for college, career and life readiness. “Take that and combine it with the ability to sit or stand or lay down in your home while that’s occurring, and it’s quite appealing for a number of families and students.”

Enrollment at the high school level has remained steady with a slight increase in overall enrollment.

Head of School Cynthia Worden said students enroll at the high school level for various reasons. Some students are medically compromised and uncomfortable returning to in-person education, while others are drawn in by different options to grow academically.

“The population we have coming to us are people who are looking for alternatives to have their individual needs met academically and virtually,” said Worden.

In addition to students, teachers have also become interested in a virtual education setting after experiencing it during the last part of the past school year.

“Some have very openly said to me, as their direct supervisor, that they have left brick and mortar because they wanted this opportunity,” said Rahmlow.

Students who are interest- ed in enrolling should have a “learning coach,” or a non-school adult to share goals and plans with.

‘Looking at the whole student’

Classes are scheduled at specific times, providing structure, and the learning coach is also responsible for ensuring the student is coming to class on time.

WIVA has also enhanced social emotional programming for grades K-8.

“It’s looking at the whole student, not just the academic part, to meet needs and adjust well not only in our environment, but in their communities overall,” said Worden.

“We know students need socialization opportunities,” said Rahmlow. “We have really strong values among our teachers with dedication to engaging kiddos, making relationships and friendships and to have fun, laugh and learn about each other.”

While students are given a master schedule, WIVA has increased protected time for socialization opportunities.

Destinations Career Academy is a career-based high school offering specialized programming in information technology, business, health and human services and manufacturing and trades.

“Our goal is for our students to leave with as many certifications as possible,” said Worden.

WIVA is also working with a curriculum partner to launch AVID (advanced via individual determination) at the high school level. It is in its third year of implementing the program and is seeing success for its students who are taking more difficult courses.

Worden said students who are interested in WIVA should have a dedicated learning environment in the home without distractions and a parent for accountability.

WIVA follows the acronym PACT for families entering its program, which stands for platforms on which families are trained to use, attendance to regular classes, communication between WIVA and families and testing to measure growth.

“You really are making a pact with us,” said Rahmlow.

To learn more about Wisconsin Virtual Academy, visit wiva.k12.com

To learn more about Destinations Career Academy of Wisconsin, visit dcawi.k12.com

KEYWORDS: Online Education, Online Learning, Destinations Career Academy of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Virtual Academy, Wisconsin, curriculum

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