NWA Cooperative Pilot Virtual School

FARMINGTON – Bailey Anderson, a new elementary school teacher, teaches in an office rather than a classroom. She teaches students using computers, Zoom and computer programs.

Anderson’s students are students who she says have medical restrictions, “thrive more in a virtual setting than in a social setting” or have other eligible reasons for continuing to learn virtually. Students are members of school districts that do not have the resources to continue to provide virtual education to only a few.

The Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative was made aware of this need and worked with five school districts to create a new K-6 pilot virtual school, with Anderson as the first and only teacher.

Anderson currently teaches 37 students in four K-6 school districts who meet her using their school’s Chromebooks and, if necessary, Wi-Fi hotspots. She said she has taught up to 41 students and can teach up to a maximum of 45 students.

A carefully crafted, color-coded daily schedule serves as a guide to grade level and subject matter that she will teach in 20-30 minute segments. Anderson said screen presence during scheduled class reunion hours is mandatory. Other than that, she said she wasn’t too concerned with how long students are online if they complete and submit their homework.

Anderson suggests that students be online for two to six hours a day, including class meeting hours. Assignments should be submitted on time, with some leeway for late submission if the assignment is completed during her academic term.

Missy Hixson, co-op deputy director and teacher center coordinator, said: “Bailey and I worked for over a week in August on DLP student planning. [digital learning plan] requirements and establishment of communication plans with parents, as well as training on virtual Florida lessons. We developed a NWAESC K-6 virtual calendar and tried to track all the days in the district as much as we could. “

Anderson said she was the designated student teacher for instruction and support, but each student is still the responsibility of their school district. She said she sends weekly attendance reports and grades to each student’s school, and some schools have a virtual learning link that she coordinates with.

At the start of the school year, Anderson was teaching 41 students, including four in kindergarten, eight first graders, three second graders, two third graders, 20 combined fourth and fifth graders, and four sixth graders. year. She said she was combining a few lessons for her different years.

Younger students need more help, Anderson said, and parents need to sit with their K-2 children during class reunion sessions and help them with homework and to submit them.

By third grade, Anderson said, students are able to navigate Buzz, the school’s learning management system, to complete and submit homework without parental assistance or presence.

Anderson said the school uses the Florida Virtual program, which the education co-op purchased for the pilot virtual school. The program is hosted in the Buzz learning management system.

Anderson said she creates a daily, virtual interactive “whiteboard” that tells each class what they are doing that day, where to find related materials, and what is due. Students then scroll down the page to view and start working on the homework.

She said that in addition to covering required materials, she provided social moments such as classroom parties to share with students, and she took students on virtual field trips to places like the Smithsonian National Science Museum. .

Although the virtual school is taught using a sterile cyberspace, the room in which Anderson teaches in the Farmington Co-op building glows with a neon pink, a feathered white shade, a chair covered with fur and a white light circle above his computer screen. A river of color flows over the wall that the students see behind her, and she says her mother, Teresa Anderson, helped her paint before school started in August.

Anderson graduated with her BA in Educational Studies in 2018 and her MA in Elementary Education in 2021, both from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and she works and is paid by the Education Co-op, said Director Bryan Law.

Law said Anderson was hired because of her teaching experience at Arkansas Virtual Academy in the spring of 2021, which he said “was a big plus for us.”

Hixson said, “Bailey stepped up his efforts and did a fabulous job with this multi-level schedule, teaching at multiple levels and developing connections with over 37 parents / students. Her knowledge of technology / virtual education has been a fabulous gift. We are fortunate to have found such a competent, enthusiastic and quick learner. “

Anderson said her teaching at Arkansas Virtual Academy prepared her well for her current job. In addition to using the Florida Virtual program, Anderson said she uses Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Sheets. [spreadsheets]. She said she also uses Gmail to communicate with parents and students.

She teaches language arts, math, social studies, science, physical education, and world history. Because she is not certified to teach art or music, a colleague at the Pine Bluff Educational Services Co-op logs in to teach these classes.

Law said the Pine Bluff and Branch education services co-ops are offering similar pilot virtual schools to their districts.

School districts receive funding for each student, and most of the funding for the K-6 Virtual School comes from passing those funds through to the co-op, by law. Districts are billed for their students enrolled in the pilot program, and the co-op charges districts “what it costs to run the program,” Law said.

His rough estimate is that the cost per student is $ 2,000, but since this is the first year of school, he said the exact cost would only be clear at the end of the year, June 30, 2022. No family pays for their child to attend K-6 virtual school, Law said.

The mission of each of the state’s 16 education service co-ops is to serve the needs of their assigned school districts, according to the Arkansas Department of Education website. After learning that some of its districts needed help to continue offering qualified students the option of virtual education, NWAESC developed a consortium with the school districts of Farmington, Prairie Grove, Siloam Springs, Elkins and Gentry.

Law said larger school districts served by the co-op are able to manage virtual education on their own, but smaller districts don’t have the staff or resources to continue to do so now that the coronavirus pandemic. was arrested and most of the students returned to school in person.

Hixson said each district has developed a state digital learning plan that has been approved by the State Board of Education.

“We developed an NWAESC plan and merged it with each district plan. We provide the teacher only for content (math / literacy / science / social studies), and districts work with specialty classes such as the special education. “

Anderson said some of his students are in the K-6 Virtual School because of the mask warrant in their schools and some are there because of the lack of a mask warrant. She said, “The best learning is safe learning.”

DENISE NEMEC SPECIAL TO ENTERPRISE-LEADER Bailey Anderson, who teaches virtual classes at the Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative in Farmington, decorated her room with a painted mural on the wall and many personal items.

COURTESY BOARD Bailey Anderson, who teaches virtual classes for the Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative, uses this color-coded daily schedule as a guide to teach 37 students a variety of subjects including language arts, math, social studies, science and world history.

COURTESY BOARD Bailey Anderson, who teaches virtual classes for the Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative, uses this color-coded daily schedule as a guide to teach 37 students a variety of subjects including language arts, math, social studies, science and world history.

Perry A. Thomasson