FAQs on River to River K-12 Virtual Academies
Why choose remote?
For most students, there is no substitute for a daily, in-person connection with their teachers and classmates. However, the past year of remote learning has uncovered a population of students who prefer and have found increased success with the online school model. For these students, the River to River K-12 Virtual Academies at Ulster BOCES create new opportunities for them to access high-quality, meaningful, accessible, and relevant education in a way that meets their specific needs. Some students may thrive with the flexibility the program offers, while others may feel more comfortable not attending in person. Whatever the reason, the River to River K-12 Virtual Academies at Ulster BOCES provide an alternative option that helps to ensure that every student has a pathway to success.
What characteristics must a student possess to be successful with this model of learning?
This program is designed for all students who are committed to attending and willing to put their best effort forward. A student’s disposition and motivation, not their academic ranking, are key factors in whether this model of learning is a good fit. Our team of educators will proactively support students to keep them motivated and on track for successful completion of coursework. A strong school-to-home connection will ensure parents and caregivers are able to support their child’s success.
Who will be teaching the classes?
Grade-level and content-area instruction is facilitated by certified teachers from Ulster BOCES who serve as “Lead Learners.” In Kindergarten through Grade 6, the teachers are assisted by learning support staff members. In addition, a building leader, art teacher, physical education teacher, digital content specialist, literacy specialist, special education learning specialist, and outreach and school/community bridge counselors round out the team.
How large are the classes?
The program is designed around our four core values—learning, student engagement, relationships, and emotional well-being. Learning will happen in intimate, individualized settings as well as through community-based activities. Low student-to-teacher ratios will cultivate supportive classroom communities and will help to ensure that students consistently receive individual attention and support.
Is there opportunities for students to receive extra help or to meet with their teachers?
Yes. Building strong student/teacher relationships is a core value of the River to River K-12 Virtual Academies design. Students will be able to access support in multiple ways.
What schedule will students follow?
Students will follow the Ulster BOCES academic year calendar, which is developed to align as closely as possible with the Ulster County component school district calendars. Each academy will have age-appropropriate daily schedules, which are still being developed. Stay tuned.
Will a student still be able to participate in their home school’s extracurricular activities?
Yes. Students will retain their home school identity and access to athletics, clubs, and other afterschool activities.
Who grants the students their credit for River to River K-12 Virtual Academies?
Virtual students will earn credits from their local school district (if the students successfully complete the requirements for doing so). This process is similar to the manner in which credits are granted for other BOCES instructional programs, such as Career & Technical Education, Special Education, and Alternative Education programs.
How will students take required State assessments?
This process is still being researched and discussed. We anticipate that the State will require students to be in physical attendance at either an Ulster BOCES campus or at the home school district for the administration of Grade 3-8 State assessments as well as for Regents examinations. We are working closely with our component school districts to determine an environment that would meet State requirements and provide students with the greatest opportunity for success.
What are the technology requirements for the program, and who will provide them?
Students will be provided with the necessary tools to complete the program. Parents will not be expected to provide devices for learning. Parents will have assistance addressing issues of poor internet connectivity or lack of broadband service.
Does this program generate BOCES aid?
Most components of the program will generate aid. The only exception would be student materials beyond the curriculum. The source of funding used by the subscribing district will also impact aid. Grant funds or Title funds like the ESSER funding through the American Recovery Plan Act will not generate aid.
Does this service qualify for ESSER/American Recovery Plan Act funding?
The River to River K-12 Virtual Academies are designed to provide districts with high-quality alternatives to the traditional in-person school experience. The Academies are designed to address learning loss and offer a solution to the continued need for remote learning options. The secondary program will be sustained beyond the funding period as a continuing option to support specific students for whom remote learning has been successful. The service also includes a robust Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) program designed to support the development of a learning culture and to support students through any trauma from the pandemic. In those ways, the program is an ideal expenditure for ESSER funds.
How do students apply?
Families should contact their guidance counselor or school principal if they wish to apply to the River to River K-12 Virtual Academies. All registrations are handled through the home school district.
Can the program grow if there are additional student enrollments?
Absolutely. This program is built around small class sizes. Pricing is based on a minimum K-12 enrollment of 280, and the program and budget are designed to scale upwards from this point. There may be a small waiting period as quality staff are being recruited and trained.
What are the registration deadlines?
Ulster BOCES is working with the eight component school districts to ascertain the level of interest among families. An ambitious timeline has been developed to allow sufficient time to recruit and train the best teachers possible for this innovative new program. We do not anticipate the State to announce a decision on whether schools will be required to offer a fully remote option next year until July. Planning for the River to River K-12 Virtual Academies is underway now to ensure we are ready to serve students in September 2021.