Falcon Virtual Academy is anything but your average school. Though the Academy now enrolls 403 students, you will almost never see all of them in the building at once. Falcon Virtual Academy is just what the name implies: school in a (nearly) virtual setting.
As of yesterday, the Academy is operating out of its new location at 613 Constitution Ave. Though this will be the second full school year for the Academy, this will be the first school term in the newly opened facility. Located in a former (remodeled and refurbished) light warehouse, the building features more open space than one might see in a normal, public school.
“The whole budget [for the new building] was about three million dollars, where as a traditional school costs 50 to 100 million,” says Stephanie Wurtz Meredith, public information officer for Falcon School District 49.
But don’t think the drop in budget will equate to a skimp on the quality of education. It’s an entirely different way to approach the concept of “school.” Students (K-12) can choose to be either full-time, part-time, or blended: either entirely taking online courses from home, completing some from home and some at the Academy, or taking all of their classes at the Academy.
“It depends on what the student wants and needs,” says Meredith. The Academy really benefits students who want a change of pace from normal schools: Whether because the pace of typical classrooms is too fast or too slow, or because the student is having a hard time adjusting socially.
How would a class at Falcon Virtual Academy look, one might ask? Students sit at computer pods, participating in online courses, while a teacher is in the classroom to answer any questions they have. Say goodbye to standard lecture classrooms, and hello to video conferencing. Mixed with this more avant-garde approach are more labs and field trips: offering a more hands-on experience than most schools.
It’s an unusual approach, but an intriguing one, at that. “We’re really setting a model for how to do the blended classroom,” says Meredith. “People have to be willing to take a little bit of a risk.”
With this background in mind, the Falcon School District 49 Board of Education will be holding its regular meeting at the new building at 6:30 tonight. On the agenda will be discussion about new technologies, and goals for the POWER Innovation Zone (increased support and advancement in 21st century learning) and, of course, an opportunity to see the new building.