Three Tri-City public school districts won’t be throwing open their actual doors to welcome back students in the fall because of high coronavirus rates in Benton and Franklin counties.
But they will be ready to greet them online when school starts Sept. 1.
The Kennewick, Richland and Pasco school districts are offering additional options to parents and students who are not comfortable with in-person instruction, if the schools can open later in the school year.
The Benton-Franklin Health District recommended July 28 that schools not reopen for in-person instruction in September because of the community’s high disease rates.
Each district will offer a standalone online school for students. Students must transfer into these online academies as they would a traditional school.
Kennewick School District’s new Online Learning Academy is intended for families who do not wish to have their children return to school for on-site, in-person learning in the 2020-21 school year.
Limited details about the program were available during the first week of August as the district was planning an Aug. 11 webinar about the new program. Registration ended Aug. 14.
The district said parents may choose the online academy and then return to in-person school once circumstances change.
Pasco’s online school, called Internet Pasco Academy of Learning, or iPAL, is for grades K-12.
The online academy has been offered since January 2013. Early on, iPAL served grades 6-12, but in 2016 it expanded to include grades K-5.
More than 500 students in grades K-12 were enrolled in iPAL during the 2019-20 school year. Students can be enrolled full time, part time and/or take classes at their home school or be home-schooled. Students who need specially designed instruction participate on a case-by-case basis.
The online school operates with an open enrollment policy throughout the year, so parents can enroll at any point, though those who consider enrolling after the beginning of the school year are encouraged to wait until the quarter or trimester, but this is not a rule.
Richland Virtual School is Richland School District’s new, fully online and teacher-directed learning program for students in kindergarten through grade 12.
Based on the model for Spokane Public Schools’ Spokane Virtual Learning, the virtual school will offer “learning tailored to a virtual platform with district teachers trained in online instruction” and “a powerful and personalized learning experience.”
Families interested in registering for the school must commit to a full year. The deadline to apply was Aug. 11.
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