The Lewisville Charter School offers an online alternative for high school students in Texas

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Lewisville-based iSchool Virtual Academy teaches high school students online. (Courtesy of the iSchool virtual academy)

As school districts across Texas return to classroom teaching, the Lewisville-based iSchool Virtual Academy is offering an online alternative for ninth- through twelfth graders.

The charter school allows students to study at their own pace and is one of the few programs approved by the Texas Education Agency to function fully online. The Academy is one of six programs offered by Responsive Ed, a non-profit organization that offers alternative learning methods for all grade levels.

“It’s not like a traditional classroom,” said Jake Kurz, communications director for Responsive Ed, of the iSchool Virtual Academy. “It is an individualized learning environment in which the students essentially have to master the content before they can move on to the next subject or the next lesson.”

Kurz said that iSchool Virtual Academy doesn’t track class sizes because everything is asynchronous. He said teachers work one on one with students to master concepts before moving on to the next subject. Kurz added that the method of communication is flexible – teachers and students can chat via email or schedule virtual meetings at will.

“Because we’re all online, we teach students across the state of Texas,” said Kurz. “You don’t have to be in Lewisville.”

Originally started as a high school dropout charter school, Kurz said the format attracted homeschool students as well as athletes, art students, and others who saw benefits in the flexible schedule as they honed their talents. Some, he said, joined simply because personal public school was too easy for them.

“Students are highly motivated and have the feeling that they can move through content faster than in [traditional] School, ”said Kurz.

He said iSchool has seen an increase in enrollment since the pandemic began. Interest has also increased since state lawmakers failed to pass measures earlier this year that would have funded virtual learning for independent school districts.

“There has been a lot of interest in our program since House Bill died in the Texas legislature in 1468,” said Gary Arnold, superintendent of iSchool Virtual Academy, in a press release. “Virtual teaching has been our only focus since 2011, and over the past 10 years thousands of students have successfully completed our program.”

The parents liked that the school is flexible when it comes to school enrollment, said Kurz. And since it is a government-sponsored charter school, the iSchool Virtual Academy is free of charge.

Fall courses start on August 10; Registrations are still being accepted.

“A virtual learning environment may not be for everyone,” said Kurz. “But we think it’s important to have opportunities for students where it really fits.”

WHAT IS A CHARTER SCHOOL?

Charter schools are different from public and private schools. In Texas, charter schools are public schools open to all students, and these schools are not allowed to charge tuition fees, according to the Texas Education Agency. These schools receive government funding based on their average daily attendance of students and can also accept donations from private or public sources, according to the TEA.

To learn more about the school, visit https://ischoolvirtual.com.


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