Our “From the Principal’s Office” news series concludes with a look into Manhattan Virtual Academy.
While students get back to classes in the physical classrooms Wednesday, many more students are also beginning classes virtually. Manhattan Virtual Academy begins its 13th year as a virtual school, housed within Manhattan High School. It enrolls students in grades 6 through 12 annually. Principal Brooke Blanck oversees the program.
“Our classes are all web-based. We have live virtual classrooms and our teachers are actually in those classrooms teaching at certain times of the day with students enrolled in that class. We have kids from Colby to Atchison, all logged in at the same time taking classes online,” Blanck said.
Students enroll for a variety of reasons to take classes virtually. Blanck says a big part of that is because of the quality of a Manhattan High School education. Another reason is convenience.
“A lot of them are very passionate about either their arts, or music or they’re elite level athletes or performers. They’re training throughout the day or could be traveling for days at a time, so this allows those students to take their school with them,” Blanck said.
Currently there are over 100 virtual learning programs across Kansas. Blanck says a student might choose the virtual learning option to help alleviate the stress and anxiety of whatever is going on in their lives. Typically there are 150 students enrolled full-time, but Blanck says Manhattan High students also have the option to take up to two of their classes online as part of their seven hour day.
“So sometimes that helps alleviate scheduling issues. Sometimes we have classes online that maybe Manhattan High doesn’t offer and it provides our local brick-and-mortar students to have the experience of online learning. As you know, in college that online component is huge,” Blanck said.
MVA has 14 full-time teachers and a few part-time teachers for some of the more obscure courses. While the social piece is missing from the virtual school, Blanck says it is a challenge to create a sense of community, since not everyone is in the same building. Each year teachers come up with a theme. This year it’s “MVA Rocks.”
“We can take that in a lot of ways, talking about rock and music, favorite artists or favorite songs. But we’re also going to be part of the “Kindness Rocks” project and that’s the social and emotional component, really lifting each other up and even strangers we don’t know, helping them feel important and happy and joyful, and that they matter,” she said.
Blanck says virtual learning has shown her that the district is working to personalize student learning. Many students that have gone through the program have received scholarships to post-secondary institutions.