ST. CLOUD (WJON News) - The St. Cloud Area School District has received the green light for a new online curriculum.

The Minnesota Department of Education has approved the Central Minnesota Virtual Academy for the 2023-2024 school year. It features online classes for grades six through twelve, with fully online programming for grades six through eight.

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District 742’s Director of Innovation and Instructional Technology, Ryan Cox, says the academy should not be compared to the pandemic learning of the past few years.

So really, to be fair, what school districts across the country were asked to do for the last two years wouldn't be wouldn't qualify (as) online learning. (It was) more of an emergency pandemic learning. In its true form, (online learning) is allowing the students to learn virtually, with their teachers, through recording, through virtual face to face, through collaboration with their peers, in a way that's a little more planned.

Cox says 40% of next year’s high school students have expressed interest in the Central Minnesota Virtual Academy. Twenty-eight percent said they would be interested in the supplemental learning the academy allows, while 13% said they’d be interested in taking all classes online.

The CMVA would allow students to catch up to their peers, allow others to take accelerated classes, and let some students take classes outside of traditional school hours to fit their schedule. The academy will be able to enroll any student, as long as they live in the state of Minnesota.

Cox says the value of the academy may be in the ability to teach all students where they’re best able to learn.

We make the mistake - we think that a student who's struggling in a brick and mortar, face to face classroom will automatically struggle in an online environment. Something we've seen (in) the last couple years is some of those students have, very surprisingly, thrived while we were in an online environment. They're getting more work done when they're not having the distractions of other students or the school environment.

The Central Minnesota Virtual Academy would be treated as a separate school, but still part of the St. Cloud district.

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