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Leander ISD Virtual Academy: LISD proposes fully online program for high school students

In a January board meeting, LISD officials discussed a virtual learning academy for fall 2021.

LEANDER, Texas — Leander ISD officials are proposing to expand the district's online schooling next academic year with a permanent program for a select group of high schoolers called "Leander ISD Virtual Academy." The district will start collecting interest from current high school students in the coming weeks.

In a Jan. 28 board meeting, Chief Academic Officer Dr. Matt Bentz said this is an online program in which all students will transfer to, participate in and graduate from a virtual four-year high school.

"We have students that find online learning is an environment that they’ve thrived in and would desire to continue with," said Bentz. 

Bentz said LISD Virtual Learning Academy would be available to grades nine and 10 students starting in fall 2021. The plan is to add grade 11 for fall 2022 and grade 12 for fall 2023. According to Bentz, 300 students will be accepted into the program for the 2021-22 school year, which means 150 students per grade.

This is all depending on how many students show interest. 

"Students who complete the application process will be selected in a lottery process that will take place April 2021," said Bentz. “In partnership and collaboration developing this proposal with high school principals, the agreement is that they will transfer to this high school and they will not be members of their former comprehensive high schools and, as such, will not be participating in activities, including extracurriculars, from the high school they’ve departed from.” 

The instruction will be virtual but it will have a balance between face-to-face and independent learning. The curriculum will be designed by LISD teachers for LISD students and it will offer most of the standard core classes, but not as many elective offerings. 

Bentz described it as a "smaller learning community" and the leadership will be provided by the executive director of alternative programs, who is currently in charge of all the operations for New Hope High School. New Hope is the only Leander ISD school that offers permanent virtual schooling for grade 11 and 12. 

Based on enrollment projections of 300 students, Bentz said there will be 12 full-time teachers for LISD Virtual Learning Academy and no additional staff will be requested. 

The next steps for this proposal are to gauge interest with a student interest survey and a parent information night. 

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