Oxford’s fastest growing school, Oxford Virtual Academy (OVA), clocked in this school year with about 1,600 full-time equivalency (FTE) students.
To try and keep those students on track and with a hope to add even more kids to its virtual classrooms, OVA is piloting its Flex program.
The school’s principal, Janet Schell, presented the program to the board of education at its Nov. 27 meeting.
As its name suggests, the program allows students to be flexible in their schooling. Currently offered to K-8 students, the program lets students have customized classes and split their week between being at home and being in a physical classroom.
“It’s basically creating personalized pathways for kids,” Schell said. “To me, that’s the best we can do, right? They can be at the middle school, they can be at the high school, they can be taking partnerships, they can take a Flex class. That’s pretty cool.”
OVA created Flex as a way to ensure students are able to succeed based on how they learn. Other districts in the state have similar programs, but this is a relatively new practice. Schell said OVA has grown in notoriety over the years, saying past students have gone on to attend colleges like the United States Military Academy at West Point, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Oakland University.
“Our kids are going all over the place,” Schell said.
Some board members were concerned about the new faces in Lansing and how the state legislature could affect Flex’s funding. Current Governor Rick Snyder changed legislation concerning online learning this year to curb its growth and, Superintendent Tim Throne suspects, allow the state to spend less on school funding.
“Are we concerned at all with making this type of shift with the budgets?… Do (we) think the changes in Lansing will have an adverse or positive reflection on the budget when it comes to virtual learning?” Trustee Dan D’Alessandro asked during the meeting.
But, Throne noted that there’s really no way of telling what Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, the Republican-controlled state Legislature and the democratic-controlled State Board of Education will do concerning Michigan schools.
“The reality is (politicians) are constantly changing their positions,” Throne said. “So I think that if we stay true to our vision and our mission of preparing students for a global society and the environment in which they’re going to live, we can’t go wrong. I’d be willing to preach that in Oxford, or Lansing, or wherever else is required.”
In the meantime, the district expects OVA and Flex to continually set the tone for what it thinks is the future of education.
“We know what’s working,” Throne said. “I think we have a better idea of what this type of education looks like at the ground level than what Lansing has an idea of, and I think it’s upon us to help determine that future and not be a victim of that future.”