Frequently Asked Questions: Virtual Learning Program

Frequently Asked Questions

(Updated 2.25.22 – will continue to be updated regularly. Scroll to bottom for latest FAQ)

Q: What are the changes proposed for the Virtual Learning Program?

A: The Superintendent’s recommendation is to pause the Virtual Learning Program and resume in-person school for all students, except those with medical conditions preventing them from attending in-person school. This is to ensure every student has access to the full range of academic and social-emotional learning services and support they need. The pause allows time for APS to engage in program development, planning and establishment of a Task Force/Committee led by the current Virtual Learning Program principal to propose a comprehensive framework for future Virtual Learning Option Program.Students who meet the criteria due to a medical condition or due to a family member’s medical condition, will have the option to enroll in K-12 Virtual VA courses and will be provided with instructional support from a teacher and/or mentor. Virtual VA provides core instructional courses. ​Elementary Art, Music and PE would be supplemented by specifically hired APS staff.

Q: How many students are in the VLP program?

A: There are 558 students enrolled as of Feb. 11, 2022, less than 2 percent of the total student body.

Q: Why is APS proposing to pause the program now?

A: We know we are not delivering the full range of academic and social-emotional services our VLP students need, and we do not have the resources or staffing capacity to continue to operate the current program.APS voluntarily developed the current model for the Virtual Learning Program in response to the pandemic for the 2021-22 school year, funded with one-time ARPA funding. While some students are thriving in the VLP, many are not. Now that the vaccine is available for all students, we expect that the majority of students can safely return to school in 2022-23, with a process in place for our most medically challenged students to access instruction through Virtual Virginia unless they apply and qualify for Homebound instruction.The pause allows us to support our students and take the time needed to assess a possible future   virtual option program that will serve students who benefit from virtual instruction.

Q: What will happen to the staff currently assigned to the VLP?

A: All eligible VLP staff will continue in their current roles through the end of the school year and will be assigned to vacancies in our brick-and-mortar schools through the employee transfer process which will begin March 21, 2022. A small number of teachers will be assigned to continue to deliver instruction to serve the students with medical needs.

Q: What is APS doing to support staff with the transition?

A: VLP staff will receive letters outlining the transition process via email which will detail next steps. The goal is to have all eligible VLP staff placed by March 28, 2022. To help facilitate the employee transfer process, Human Resources will host two Employee Transfer Fairs that provide employees opportunities to transfer into available positions. Priority placement will be given to all eligible VLP staff. APS is continuing to hold staff meetings and respond to staff questions.

Q: What is the process to create a future virtual option program?

A: Moving forward, building on the expertise gained during the pandemic, we have an opportunity to create a comprehensive virtual option program for students who thrive in the virtual learning setting—and this takes time, resources and extensive planning.Principal Danielle Harrell will lead the visioning and development process next school year which will include a Task Force and other opportunities for parents and staff to participate and give feedback.

Q: What recovery and compensatory instruction services will be provided to VLP students who have missed instruction time this school year?

A: Students are participating in diagnostic assessments that will identify areas of needed support in reading, language arts and math and will be provided learning intervention plans to serve their individual needs. We are also providing in-person summer school strengthening for students who are performing below grade level on reading and math assessments.

Q: What support will be provided to help students transition successfully back to their school of record?

A: The success and well-being of your student(s) through the remainder of this school year, and throughout the transition back to in-person school at their school of record for the 2022-23 school year, are our priority. To support VLP students, APS will provide:

  • Parent meetings and info sessions in February to address questions and concerns from VLP families related to the recommendations for VLP for next year.
  • Academic planning, course selection and instructional plans to support students’ learning and transition back to home schools for the upcoming school year. Student Intent to Return Surveys/Course Selection Forms will take place/are due March 7.
  • Limited virtual course options for students to access via Virtual@APS and other external third-party vendors in alignment with practices currently available to students in middle and high school.
  •  Access to members of the School Support Team to support students with transition.
  • A continued commitment to providing safe, healthy learning environments and following the measures recommended for K-12 schools.

Q: Why is APS communicating this to staff and families now?

A: APS staff and VLP families have worked collaboratively to address the early challenges with the VLP. The immediate priority through the first half of the school year was addressing the issues with the model and offering VLP students and staff the resources and support they need now to ensure all students are receiving what they need virtually.APS is announcing the change now to ensure all students can have a strong start in 2022-23. These decisions impact the budget as well as staffing and operational planning that is now beginning for the upcoming school year. Schools need accurate staffing and student enrollment data in order to plan for the upcoming year and to prepare VLP students for a successful transition.

Q: What engagement with staff and families did APS conduct when forming these recommendations?

A: APS has engaged with VLP families on a regular basis through the school year to address the issues with the current model, and APS leaders continue to engage with parents and staff to address questions and feedback about the transition back to in-person instruction. Our focus is collaborating on strategies to support students to ensure a successful transition. Staff and family meetings are being held and the FAQ are posted on a dedicated Engage webpage.

Q: With the pandemic ongoing, why pause the program now?

A: The pandemic is a long-term consideration, and conditions have improved significantly this school year–APS has been effective in maintaining safe learning environments through vaccinations and layered prevention measures. Our primary purpose is to ensure all students receive the best education possible in safe, healthy and supportive environments, and believe many of our VLP students need the services available in person at their school of record.

Q: What are the virtual options for students with medical conditions next year? Who will be eligible and what will students receive?

A: Students who are not able to return to in-person instruction due to their own medical condition or due to the medical condition of an individual who resides in the household full-time will be able to apply for an exemption from returning to instruction in person.  ​Documentation of extenuating circumstances may include evidence of ongoing treatment by a health care provider of issues related to the health of a student, or a member of the student’s immediate household, that may be significantly impacted by potential exposure to COVID-19 and which could be mitigated by the student’s participation in virtual learning. ​ Eligible students will enroll in K-12 Virtual VA courses unless applying and qualifying for Homebound Instruction.    ​

Q: What does the K-12 Virtual VA option entail?

A: K-12 Virtual VA courses provide core instructional courses and supplemental instructional support from a teacher and/or mentor will be provided. Students would follow Virtual VA schedules.  Elementary Art, Music and PE would be supplemented by specifically hired APS staff. ​Sample schedules and details regarding synchronous instruction for K-5 may be accessed at the Virtual VA website.Sample schedules and details regarding synchronous instruction for students in grades 6-12 may be accessed at the Virtual VA website.

Q: What is the eligibility process for Homebound instruction and what does it entail?

A: Information about eligibility and a link to the application is available online.Students would be enrolled in their school of record and complete assignments provided for them by their assigned APS teacher.  A Homebound teacher would meet with the student in person for a predetermined number of hours each week to provide executive functioning and academic support. The Homebound teacher would also coordinate delivery of special education services for students with IEPs with the student’s case carrier at their school of record and with the counselor for students with 504 plans. Because Homebound services are limited to a nine-week timeframe, families should reapply for these services at the end of this time period if they intend to continue with Homebound instruction.

Q: Why is APS not considering maintaining the program while working on the improvements? Why stop and start?

A: We know we are not delivering the full range of academic and social-emotional services our VLP students need, and we do not have the resources or staffing capacity to continue to operate the current program. The pause allows us to support our students and take the time needed to create a sustainable, long- term virtual option program.

Q: What supports will be available for students with disabilities and English Learners?

A: The IEP or 504 team will meet to discuss the delivery of accommodations and services within the virtual instruction environment for Students With Disabilities.​​  English Learners will be provided with supplemental instructional opportunities to enhance language acquisition – speaking, listening, writing and reading.​

Q: Will students maintain a connection to their school of record if they are enrolled in Virtual Virginia? 

A: Students who are eligible for Virtual Instructional Learning Services and enrolled in Virtual Virginia will continue to work with their counselor at their school of record. High school students will also be able to participate in sports at their school of record.  All students will be able to participate in activities at their schools of record. Transportation will not be provided for these students.

Q: What is the average Virtual Virginia class size?

A: Most class sizes are comparable to APS class sizes. Some courses may have slightly more students enrolled than an average APS class due to differences in how class sizes are determined.

Q: Will students enrolled in Virtual Virginia take most of their courses through Virtual Virginia or will APS use other online service providers?

A: All core classes will be provided by Virtual Virginia. APS will partner with other online service providers only for unique courses that Virtual Virginia does not offer, such as some Advanced Placement courses.

Q: What conditions will be considered for medical exemption? 

A: Any physical and/or mental health condition that will be significantly impacted by a potential exposure to COVID-19 will be considered for medical exemption to return to in-person instruction.

Q: What documentation should be submitted to provide verification of medical condition?

A: Documentation to support request for medical exemption may take many forms including letters, notes, or reports which include evidence of ongoing treatment by a certified health care provider of issues related to the physical and/or mental health of a student, or a member of the student’s immediate household, that may be significantly impacted by a potential exposure to COVID-19 and which could be mitigated by the student’s participation in virtual learning. We encourage you to submit as much documentation as possible to support the application.

Q: If approved for a medical exemption, how will my child with a disability access instruction via Virtual VA?   

A: For students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan, an IEP or 504 committee will be convened to review, discuss, and determine which supports, services, and accommodations can be made available in a virtual school. Accommodations and special education support services will be provided by an Arlington Public Schools teacher as determined by a student’s IEP or 504 plan.

Q: Will students currently enrolled in option schools be unenrolled in that program if they apply for medical exemption for the upcoming school year? 

A: Students enrolled in option schools for the upcoming school year will retain their spots in those programs for the following school year (SY 2023-24).  Students will not be required to reapply to the option school should they wish to re-enroll for in-person instruction.