By Mckenzie Moore

Staff Writer

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many schools were faced with the sudden task of transferring their curriculums to a home-based format. Vision Charter Academy, however, already had a program in place that allowed students to shift to full homeschooling with little academic disruption.

“We had a very smooth transition in the coronavirus situation, such that we were already heading toward being even more family focused in our partnerships,” said Willyn Webb, Vision Charter Academy executive director. “We’ve been doing this for years, and we were headed there anyway, to be more blended because the partnership with the families is what makes our model effective.”

The blended model has students in class two days a week and studying remotely with their parents or guardians for the other three. Classrooms will be limited to 10 students and one grade level at a time, and Webb said any other health guidelines that arise in the fall will be followed.

She also emphasized that because Vision offers flexible plans for students’ educations, including a course catalog and options for homeschooling guidance, parents and students can also formulate an educational plan that works for their specific circumstances.

Vision was in the process of implementing the fully-blended model when the pandemic hit, and simply expedited the process. The model will be used starting next year, and Webb said it will be even more conducive to not only providing individualized education, but also for being prepared for the event of a COVID-19 resurgence.

“I think COVID has potentially changed education forever. Some schools are having to start over. We’re building on what we already knew worked,” Webb said. “As education is under so much scrutiny with so many unknowns, we’ve really built up on what we do best well to establish something that’s going to provide social distancing and that quality blended education.

“We’re fully set up, so if we need to, we can go fully in-home again and it will be seamless. It’ll only affect [students] minimally.”

The model also allows for flexibility in the parents’ or guardians’ role in students’ education.

“This model also allowed us to individualize academically even more… Families are willing to make it work, because they really appreciate the individualized program,” Webb said. “Parents can either be the full teacher with our guidance and curriculum, or they can do the three days at home but have a teacher that’s planning, grading and taking the lead.”

On the students’ end, Webb said the format is also helpful for teaching them modern life skills such as time management, decision making and use of technology to communicate.

“We feel that this is going to better prepare them for their future because they’re learning a lot of 21st-century skills,” Webb said. “Kids and families being able to custom design their education fits with the world they’re moving into: using technology to make it work, maintaining relationships. By having those partnerships with the family and the community, it becomes learner centered.”

Vision Charter Academy also has 52 partnerships with businesses in Delta and Montrose counties, where students can take electives on topics they are interested in. Webb said some students stick with one subject for their entire academic career and graduate with a high skill level, while others explore various subjects.

“You can explore your curiosities and when you find your passion, you can really go with it,” Webb said.

During the pandemic, Vision has provided advice and resources to schools that have needed to find alternate ways of teaching, taking attendance and overall connecting with students. Vision has connected with both schools and communities through webinars to share how they monitor students’ progress and ensure they get a quality education.

“This COVID situation has presented the opportunity for us to shine,” Webb said. “We’re willing to be a support for families whether they’re part of us or not. Being a resource for the community is important for us.”

More information about Vision Charter Academy can be found at visioncharteracademy.org.

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