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Attention ninth graders: Applications open for NYC’s virtual high school

The city’s new virtual high school program could serve 200 ninth graders this coming school year.

A student views the Google Classroom screen on a laptop.

Rising ninth graders in New York City will have the opportunity to attend virtual high school.

Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

Applications are open for the city’s new virtual high school program, which will only serve 200 ninth graders this coming school year, Chancellor David Banks announced Thursday. 

The program, called “A School Without Walls,” is meant to provide students with individualized remote instruction, internships, and service-based learning.

Rising ninth graders can apply using their MySchools account. They will be able to choose between hybrid or virtual models, each offering 100 seats. The deadline is July 6, and students will be notified of lottery results by mid-July. 

The new program might be a draw for families who still feel uncomfortable attending in-person classes during the coronavirus pandemic. But city officials did not say whether certain students would get preference for the lottery.

All enrolled students will receive a laptop, and teachers will provide live instruction as well as pre-recorded, or asynchronous, lessons from school campuses. Students will have access to resources at these schools, including counseling services, technical assistance, and extracurricular activities. 

Students opting for the hybrid model will attend classes in person for half of the day and engage in remote learning for the other half. In-person classes will be held at an education department building at 131 Livingston St. in Brooklyn. 

Meanwhile, the virtual model is fully remote, with both live lessons and self-paced learning. 

Banks said the city collaborated with high school students to design the program, using lessons from the pandemic. 

“The pandemic underscored the importance of reimagining the student experience for our children, giving them the opportunity to freely pursue their interests and passions as part of their high school journey,” Banks said in a statement.

New York City is joining the nation’s other 20 largest school districts in offering a remote option this fall. Half of those districts, like New York City, are offering more full-time virtual schooling than they did before the pandemic, Chalkbeat previously found, illustrating the impact of online schooling even as questions remain about how effective such programs are.

A spokesperson for the city’s education department said that teachers will model after traditional high schools and base the curriculum on the NYS Standards. “Courses will rely heavily on project-based, interdisciplinary learning with additional support provided for math and science,” the spokesperson said. 

The city hasn’t yet announced all of the details related to the curriculum, but virtual open houses for interested students will be held on June 29, June 30, and July 5. 

Tom Liam Lynch, who runs the InsideSchools online guide, said it’s important for teachers to receive training and support for the virtual model.

“How are we ensuring that these virtual school options are high quality, culturally responsive, socially emotionally aware, and attending to the needs that students have?” he asked.

Lynch also said that if the curriculum has been purchased from a vendor, it needs to be modified or adapted to the specific needs of New York City’s students. 

“In the wake of COVID, the entire planet has just experienced that it is possible to connect online. There’s an awareness that there are models that could work in our school system,” Lynch said. 

Marcela Rodrigues-Sherley is a reporting intern for Chalkbeat New York. Contact Marcela at mrodrigues-sherley@chalkbeat.org.

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