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Virtual learning options still available in West Michigan

While the vast majority of children are back in school and on campus, some local school districts are still offering virtual learning as an option.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — While the vast majority of children are back in school and on campus, some local school districts are still offering virtual learning as an option.

Rockford Public Schools created a virtual school because of the pandemic. Now, it’s a program sticking around and operating for families in unique circumstances.

“Oftentimes, there might be medical situations that families have, there might be circumstances that, you know, families have just a very personal connection or some efforts to make sure that a family is ultimately safe from COVID," said Mike Ramm, assistant superintendent of instruction at Rockford Public Schools.

Changes to virtual learning included more live instruction for students.

While last year's enrollment in Rockford's virtual school was at about 10% of the total student population, that number has been significantly reduced to about 1%

“You know, we're a large district and our families have unique needs. Out there, we want to serve everybody. So I think that our eyes are open to continuing to offering some type of virtual learning in the future, pandemic influenced or not," Ramm said.

Grand Rapids-based National Heritage Academies, a company that operates charter schools in nine states, also launched its first virtual school called PrepNet Virtual Academy.

“It was already something that had been the dream plate, but the pandemic obviously forced that forward," said Melissa Vanklompenburg, principal of PrepNet Virtual Academy. 

The principal says in the last few weeks their enrollment numbers have skyrocketed to more than 1,200 students. And they've even started a micro-school pilot in Kentwood that combines both in-person and virtual learning.

“They (students) can work independently or around others and log into their class being taught by their virtual teacher in a location where we have a trained academic coach and a teacher available to assist them, but they would get their instructions for their virtual teacher," Vanklompenburg said.

PrepNet is still in its infancy but educators with the school believe it is here to stay.

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