Options abound for Florida Virtual School students


Published: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 11:27 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 11:27 a.m.

Enrollment is open now — and every day — for a 24/7 school with no classrooms and no dress code.

Facts

Online information

For more information or to enroll, visit www.flvs.com.

Florida Virtual School, an online public school district spanning the state, is open to students in kindergarten through 12th grade, with full-time and part-time enrollment options.

FLVS employees held an open house at the Millhopper Library Branch on Tuesday where interested families could hear about the curriculum and meet a few teachers.

FLVS is free for Florida residents, the same as traditional public schools.

Classes are offered online Monday through Friday, and students can either watch live lessons in real-time or watch recordings of the classes any time of day or night.

Marie Mitchell, principal of the FLVS middle school, said typical academic classes like math or English have a recommended pace of 16 weeks a semester or so, mimicking the public school schedule.

That means the average student takes 16 weeks in the fall semester and 16 weeks in the spring semester to finish the course.

However, Mitchell said, "That's just suggested."

Students can move faster or slower, depending on their needs.

Many students enroll in FLVS because of medical issues, she said. Students who are frequently in the hospital may extend their semester based on their own schedule.

Likewise, a student gifted in physics, for example, can tear through the class as fast as they like.

FLVS offers about 120 classes, including P.E., drivers ed (without the actual driving), career-technical courses, Advanced Placement courses and foreign languages and other electives.

Mitchell said families choose online school for different reasons.

Some, like students who are confined to a hospital bed, physically can't attend a brick-and-mortar school.

Other students may have struggled with anxiety or bullying in a more traditional setting, or have learning disabilities that require a more individualized plan.

She said many homeschool families enroll older students part-time for upper-level classes like calculus and biology.

Like a traditional school, Mitchell said teachers still interact with students on a personal level, even though they rarely or never meet in person.

Now 17 years old, FLVS recently started offering a real high school graduation experience for seniors, who also receive a diploma.

The school also encourages its students to get involved with the rest of the community.

For example, FLVS is sponsoring a middle school student's project to bring a Little Free Library — a "take a book, leave a book" corner in a community space — to Gainesville.

The book nook will open soon inside the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville, and it will also contain information about local libraries and how to get there.

FLVS middle school lead teacher Susan Swails said the school tries to back community-based student projects whenever it can.

"We're really proud of our kids," she said.

Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or erin.jester@gainesville.com.

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