PSD Virtual ends in May. Here’s what we know about its replacement.

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Poudre Global Academy Virtual will replace PSD Virtual as Poudre School District’s sole remote learning option in the 2021-22 school year. 

PGA currently exists as a hybrid school where students attend class remotely and in person, similar to what middle and high schoolers are currently doing as part of PSD’s Phase 3 learning.   

Here’s a look at what the end of PSD Virtual means for the more than 2,900 students and 160 staff members who operate the remote learning offering born out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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What we know about PGA Virtual 

Beginning in the fall, Poudre Global Academy (PGA) Virtual will be the district’s only completely virtual option. 

The new program will offer virtual “specials” classes and ask parents or other adults to be a “learning coach” for their enrolled students, similar to how PSDV operated. 

As they were this past year, WiFi devices and electronics, like computers or tablets, will be available to assist remote students with school work in PGA Virtual.

Decisions are still being made, but PGA Virtual is also looking to use a block schedule for its high school students.

At a January information session about the new program, PGA interim principal Brad Avery said that PGA Virtual will be a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning, similar to the way PSDV was run. 

The main difference between the two schools is that while PSDV was 100% remote learning, PGA Virtual will offer on-campus activities to “help build community” and “support learning.” It is looking to partner with a PSD high school where students can take courses like choir, band or orchestra, according to the school website.

There will also be mandatory on-campus events for things like exams, orientations, ceremonies or special support. 

PGA’s hybrid option allows students to learn remotely between 60% and 80% of the time and at PGA’s campus for the remainder. 

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What we don’t know 

The size, along with details on the curriculum, remain unknown for PGA Virtual.

District spokesperson Madeline Noblett said there is not a cap for how many students can enroll in PGA Virtual, and the district will monitor enrollment throughout the spring to determine staffing needs.

Currently, PGA has a staff of 32, according to its website. As of mid-February, the school did not have a number of teachers it will hire in mind. 

Noblett said that specifics about the curriculum and staffing models may be different than what was in place for PSDV, but “the focus on student and staff connections will be the same.”

Noblett said PGA Virtual is also looking into concurrent enrollment so PGA Virtual students could earn high school and college credits and industry certifications, though this is not a confirmed option yet.

A return to its roots

Virtual learning is nothing new to Poudre Global Academy. 

The school initially opened as a completely online school in 2009. It later shifted to a hybrid learning model, which will still be offered in the 2021-22 school year. PGA’s website says its hybrid model prepares “students to take ownership of their learning” while giving them flexibility to learn at their own pace.

“We’re going to learn from our past experiences and try and come up with a middle ground that really supports that philosophy of online learning,” Avery said in the information session, referencing the school’s remote origins and years of hybrid learning experience. 

Avery emphasized that the flexible, hybrid model allows students to pursue passions that can take up large amounts of time, saying the school “can personalize and support to meet the needs of a variety of individuals.” 

Families can opt into PGA’s virtual or hybrid programs through their school choice applications, which are open until the first day of school in the fall.

Why PSDV is ending

Last August, PSD Virtual was offered to Poudre School District families as a completely remote option that would not return to in-person or hybrid learning, even if the rest of the district did. 

It was a popular option and became the district’s largest school with more than 2,900 students enrolled at some point throughout the year and a staff of more than 160, according to the school’s office manager.

But despite being considered a success, the district announced that PSDV will stop operation at the end of the 2020-21 school year.

The Coloradoan previously reported that PSDV was larger than predicted, cost more money than was planned, and 80% of respondents to a district survey would like to transfer their students back to their home schools for in-person learning in the fall, provided COVID-19 was not a barrier.

Molly Bohannon covers education for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @molboha or contact her at mbohannon@coloradoan.com. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.