As the first day of school approaches, Shawnee Public Schools is making it known that in addition to learning in the classroom, students can learn from home at their own pace through Shawnee Virtual Academy (SVA).

According to SPS Instructional Coordinator Gretchen Slate, SVA is a nontraditional way for students in elementary, middle and high school to receive their education.

"It is all virtual based and it is programmed for the student's grade level or whichever course they're taking," Slate said. "So high school — it's based on their high school graduation requirements and then elementary and middle school — it's based on the state standards and what they need to accomplish in that year."

Slate explained SVA has been available for quite a while, but recently people have started to focus on alternative education formats.

"We know that it's not everything for every student and so we just decided we have to think outside the box and do what's best for our kids...," Slate said.

The Instructional Coordinator explained SVA is beneficial for those students who are homebound due to illness, who struggle in a classroom environment or whose parents feel it's the best option.

"It's actually very flexible. So you have kiddos that get on there and they knock it out first thing in the morning but maybe afternoon works better for them...We just ask that they are on a certain number of minutes based on what the state is expecting if they were in a regular classroom," Slate said.

SVA is different depending on the grade level but Slate explained elementary students have one class while middle and high schoolers have numerous classes.

Slate said SPS teachers don't teach the courses but supervise them and grade the students as if they were in their classrooms.

"It's not replacing education, it's just a different way of look at it. So we want to make sure that they're still getting plenty of instructional time even though it is all virtual based," Slate said.

On average, Slate explained students attending SVA spend four to five hours a day taking their classes and since they're supervised, those students who wish to return to the classroom easily can.

Slate said SVA is also a good way for parents to monitor their students' progress in schools and is more individualized.

"We love the educational process within a school building all aspects with socialization with their peers and their teachers but we know that doesn't work for everybody and so that's one of the number one reasons we decided to offer this for our families," Slate said.

For the 2019-2020 school year Slate said their are currently 17 students in the district enrolled in SVA.

Along with other districts, SPS partners with Gordon Cooper Technology Center to produce online schooling and all go through a computer program called Odyssey Ware.

"We all kind of build the programs together and if they build a class that we like then we have access to it," Slate said.

As the school year draws near, Slate said more students could enroll in SVA and while it's not replacing education is a new form of learning many can benefit from.

"I think with education the biggest think is it's one of the most flexible ever changing professions around," Slate said. "We have to continually to evaluate what's happening and make adjustments...So I think that's probably the biggest think is being flexible..."