HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — Henrico's Virtual Academy is hosting an information session Tuesday night for families to come out and discover more about virtual education and its potential benefits.
"We're seeing a lot of students who just really thrive at the virtual setting, who maybe in-person just was not the best fit for them, for medical reasons or for other personal reasons," explained Henrico Virtual Academy Principal Gary Marshall.
Because of the large demand for virtual learning due to the pandemic, the virtual academy was full with more than 1,300 students — but Marshall noted they have seen some students return to in-person learning since COVID-19 case numbers have declined.
"Some of the challenges, I think, are just the enrollment," said Marshall. "So we're looking at next year, out of the current 1,330 students who are within Henrico Virtual Academy, about 1,100 of those are returning."
The district is opening up the application process, and aiming to accept 300 new students to the program.
Marshall said one benefit of Henrico Virtual Academy is that the program offers the same classes students would have in-person, such as AP and honors classes.
Next year, the virtual program is planning even more in-person events, like field trips and clubs, to help ensure students feel connected to their classmates and teachers.
"We have a lot of different events to build community with kids," said Marshall. "So the teachers still feel connected with their kids through these types of events, and they also have clubs with students where students can get together informally, and work with their teachers on non-academic fun things."
Henrico Virtual Academy is currently the district's largest program, but Marshall said he’s pushing for accreditation for the school to be able to operate on its own next school year.
While the program works to become its own school officially, students will still have the ability to participate in extracurricular options at their home school.
"If you were a Godwin student, you'd be able to participate in sports there," he explained. "If you were a senior, you'll still be able to walk with your class at Godwin, for next year, as well. So we'll continue that for the time being."
Henrico has an online learner reflection tool you can access to help determine whether virtual schooling could be beneficial for your child.
Tuesday night's information session will run from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. You can access the meeting here.