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Union to launch full-time virtual program next year

An informational session for parents will be held Tuesday, May 21, from 7 – 8 p.m. at Union High School, 6636 S. Mingo Rd., in the Grand Hall of Union Collegiate Academy. Parents and students who are interested in the program are encouraged to attend.

Originally posted May 8, 2019

Union Public Schools is greatly expanding its virtual educational offerings for students in grades 6-12 in a pilot program that will debut for the 2019-20 school year. Where previous programs have limited the number of online classes students can take, the expanded program – called Union Virtual – will enable students selected for the program to take as many as 100% of their courses online.  They will also have the option to take one elective course – like Fine Arts or athletics – in a face-to-face setting.

Union Virtual is free of charge to students accepted into the program.  Participating students will be issued a school-owned laptop for use while enrolled.  In its first year, the program will be limited to 100 students.

“The launch of Union Virtual is an important turning point for Union Public Schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler. “While earlier efforts have allowed us to dip our toe into the online realm, we are wholeheartedly embracing the idea of 100% virtual education with Union Virtual. More importantly, now students can ‘have it both ways’ – attend school virtually and participate in Union’s abundance of extracurricular activities. That, combined with personalized attention from Union’s top-notch certified teachers, is what distinguishes Union Virtual from other programs.”

The program targets students who live in the district, but may not be enrolled at Union today, according to Gart Morris, Executive Director of Instructional Technology. “Living within our boundary are students who are currently homeschooled or ones who haven’t been served well by traditional brick and mortar schools.  At the same time, these students may crave the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities like band, orchestra, cheer or athletics.  By enrolling in Union Virtual, they are also a member of their grade-level appropriate school, with the ability to participate in the full array of clubs, programs and activities offered at their school site. No other virtual program can compete with the Union experience.”

All students accepted into Union Virtual are required to take six rigorous hours of instruction per day. Students will be able to proceed at their own pace with an option to work ahead and progress at a faster rate if they desire.  Most instruction will occur online, but every student is assigned a certified teacher who will monitor their progress, provide assistance as needed, and will be the point of contact between the student, parent and their grade-level school site.  All students need internet access 6-8 hours per day in order to receive instruction and complete assignments. Union can provide a portable MiFi device that will allow the student to work from home.

Morris said the program is not for everyone. “This virtual offering is designed for students who are highly motivated and have strong parental support of academics at home.  It is not for students who struggle academically; however, it may be a good option for students who struggle with social/emotional issues. We encourage students to talk with their teachers and counselors to determine if Union Virtual is the best option for them.” 

Union VirtualTo be eligible for Union Virtual, students in grades 6-12 this fall must live in the district, be enrolled full-time with Union Public Schools, and may not be enrolled in any other program or school (private, online or homeschool). Once their application has been accepted, they must be enrolled with Union no later than August 9, 2019.  Applications are available at www.unionps.org/Union-Virtual. The deadline for application is July 1, 2019.  Students accepted into the program will be notified prior to August 1 each year.  

Applicants will be evaluated based on academic performance, attendance, motivation, and home academic support. No more than 100 students will be admitted to the Union Virtual pilot program.

An informational session for parents will be held Tuesday, May 21, from 7 – 8 p.m. at Union High School, 6636 S. Mingo Rd., in the Grand Hall of Union Collegiate Academy. Parents and students who are interested in the program are encouraged to attend.

Union Virtual is based in the Union Innovation Lab located at 5313 S. Mingo Rd. For more information, visit www.unionps.org/Union-Virtual.  

Union to launch full-time virtual program next year

A full-time virtual program is coming to Union Public Schools, giving the district a better opportunity to target students who choose to go elsewhere.

The expanded program — called Union Virtual — will allow students in grades 6-12 to take 100% of their classes online. It debuts next school year as a pilot.

Currently, the district offers individual online courses to high school juniors and seniors. About 890 students take at least one virtual course — an option that will remain available moving forward. Although Union Virtual will be limited to 100 students in its first year, Superintendent Kirt Hartzler said its size should grow quickly and could easily double the following year.

Hartzler called the program an important turning point for Union in reaching a generation of students who grew up online. Traditional schools have been ramping up their own virtual offerings as enrollment at Epic Charter Schools continues to soar.

“We have to remain relevant. That is the one thing as a superintendent that keeps me up at night, maybe more than anything else,” Hartzler said. “If we don’t continue to be relevant in our world, then there’s a day perhaps where we can be replaced. And I think maybe we’re seeing some of that, where at least some people are at least attempting to try to do that.”

The superintendent believes the new program will stand out from virtual charter schools because it allows students to “have it both ways.” They can take courses entirely from home while still being able to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities at Union. Students will have the option to take one elective course — like fine arts or athletics — in a face-to-face setting. Read more from Tulsa World