IDEA Opens Application Process for Virtual Learning in Texas

IDEA Opens Application Process for Virtual Learning in Texas

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, IDEA Public Schools is offering an online education program for Texas students who are too young for COVID vaccinations, with first priority for students who have health issues followed by students who live with someone with a health issue. 

Interested families with IDEA students currently in kindergarten through 6th Grade must apply by Friday, October 15 at 3 p.m. CT to determine students’ eligibility. We expect virtual classes will begin November 1, depending on enrollment and staffing. The application and full eligibility criteria are available through Clever.  

Like many school districts, IDEA is focusing our virtual learning program on students who are most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19: children under age 12, who are currently too young to receive COVID vaccines, and especially those with compromised immune systems and health concerns. 

Furthermore, the Texas Education Agency and IDEA are limiting virtual learning to students based on their attendance last year and their academic performance. This is a recognition that most students learn best in person and that online learning is not optimal for students who are behind their peers academically. 

IDEA families may apply for IDEA Virtual Academy by following these steps for each student: 

  • Read the Frequently Asked Questions and review the eligibility criteria set by Texas law and IDEA.  
  • Sign into the Clever Student Portal from any web browser and click on Apply to IDEA Virtual Academy. 
  • If you believe your student is eligible, complete the online application form before Friday, October 15 at 3 PM CT / 2 PM MT.For students seeking priority because of a medical concern, the application requires confirmation of student or family health issues from a licensed physician Click HERE to access that form in English and Spanish. 
  • Stand by for confirmation of eligibility by or on Thursday, October 21. 
  • If your student is eligible, IDEA will send you instructions to enroll in IDEA Virtual Academy. 
  • On the start date for your student’s virtual learning program, follow the instructions to attend school online. 

 

Following this message are answers to questions families may have about virtual learning. If you have further questions, contact your student’s school. 

With the cooperation and determination of IDEA students, families, teachers and staff, we have shown together that learning can occur safely in our schools and classrooms. IDEA’s COVID-19 case numbers in Texas have been well below surrounding communities’ this school year and last. In fact, according to recent data from the Texas Education Agency, the rate of new cases at IDEA is lower than in 95% of reporting school districts — just 1.2 new cases per 1,000 students. 

When students come to school wearing masks, and when they have been inoculated against COVID, school can happen largely as it is meant to be. Still, we understand that virtual learning may provide additional peace of mind to families while we all work to stop the spread of the virus that has disrupted our communities and claimed the lives of loved ones. 

No matter how your student attends school at IDEA — in person or online — we are grateful you are part of the IDEA family, and we stand committed to supporting every student on their path to and through college. 

Answers to IDEA Families’ Questions about IDEA Virtual Academy 

What, generally, are the requirements to be eligible for IDEA’s virtual learning program? 

  1. The student must be currently enrolled at an IDEA Texas campus in Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th grade. PreKindergarten is not eligible under Texas’s virtual learning law. IDEA Travis students are not eligible, eitheralthough the school is operated by IDEA, it is a Midland Independent School District campus. 
  2. In addition, the recently enacted Texas law that allows virtual learning in public school districts sets eligibility requirements based on students’ academic performance and attendance. The full list of those requirements is below. Upon receiving a student’s application, IDEA will consult our records to determine if the student meets these requirementsfamilies will not have to determine that, and most will not need to produce academic or attendance records. 
  3. While not an eligibility requirement, priority for virtual learning will be given first to students with a health condition known to increase the risk of illness from COVID-19, followed by students who live with someone with such a condition. The application requires confirmation of student or family health issues from a licensed physician. 

 

Specifically, what are the eligibility criteria related to academic performance and attendance? 

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has set academic criteria for virtual learning, and IDEA has interpreted those requirements for the grade levels served by IDEA’s virtual learning program. 

Students in Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades must meet the following requirements:

  • Passed/been promoted from the previous school year 
  • Earned a C or better on their End of Year report card in math, science, social studies, reading and writing courses in 2020-21 School Year (except kindergarten) 
  • Scored at or above the 40th percentile in reading and math on beginning-of-year Renaissance STAR (Ren STAR) assessments.  
  • Be reading on grade level as assessed by Lesson 1 or higher of their grade’s Reading Mastery Transformations (RMT) Instructional Level 

 

Students in 3rd grade must meet the following requirements: 

  • Passed/been promoted from the previous school year 
  • Earned a C or better on their end-of-year report card in math, science, social studies, reading and writing courses in 2020-21 School Year 
  • Scored at or above the 40th percentile in reading and math on beginning-of-year Renaissance STAR (Ren STAR) Assessments.  

 

Students in 4th, 5th and 6th grades must meet the following requirements: 

  • Passed/been promoted from the previous school year 
  • Earned a C or better on their end-of-year report card in math, science, social studies, reading and writing courses in 2020-21 School Year 
  • Passed all STAAR exams required for their grade level in 2020-2021 
  • Current 4th Graders must have passed the 2020-21 reading and math STAAR exams 
  • Current 5th Graders must have passed the 2020-21 reading, writing and math STAAR Exams 
  • Current 6th Graders must have passed the 2020-21 reading, science and math STAAR Exams 

OR 

  • If they did not take STAAR exams last year, students in grades 4-6 must have scored at or above the 40th percentile in reading and math on beginning-of-year Renaissance STAR (Ren STAR) assessments.  

 

For all students seeking to learn virtually, TEA has set eligibility criteria based on attendance, as well: 

  • Last year, the student’s total unexcused absences must total less than 10% (~17 days) of the 2020-21 school year’s instructional days.  
  • To remain enrolled in virtual learning this year, students must maintain fewer than 10 unexcused absences in a six-month period.  

 

How do I access the application for IDEA Virtual Academy? 

Parents or guardians can log in to Clever from any device to submit the application. From any web browser, sign into Clever as the student who is applying for Virtual Academy:  

Clever URL: clever.com/in/ideapublicschools

Username: StudentID@ideastudent.org 

Password: Idea + Student DOB (MMDDYY) 

Once in the Clever Student Portal, click on “Apply to IDEA Virtual Academy” and complete the online form. To apply for additional students, log out, then repeat the process using the student’s login. 

 IDEA TX Virtual Learning - Clever Login

 

Is there a limit to how many students can enroll in IDEA Virtual Academy? 

Yes, IDEA plans to offer a total of roughly 700 virtual seats across our Texas regionsIf there is excess demand from eligible students, IDEA will run a lottery for available spots. First priority will go to students with medical issues, then students who live with someone with a qualifying medical issue. 

Is virtual learning available for students in 7th - 12th grades? 

No, because vaccines are currently available and significantly reduce the health risk of attending school in person for ages 12 and older – the age ranges in grades 7-12IDEA’s experience has been that when students have been inoculated against COVID, and when students come to school wearing masks, learning can take place safely in person.  

Can IDEA students in Louisiana or Florida enroll in virtual learning? 

No, unfortunately. Louisiana and Florida are not funding virtual learning as an alternative to in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Only IDEA Texas students may apply.  

Will virtual learners remain in their current schools and classrooms – but online? 

No. Virtual Academy students will be placed into new online classrooms, with teachers who will probably not be their current teachers at school and with classmates they may not already know. Virtual Academy students will be mixed online across schools and across IDEA regions. Teachers will not be leading classes simultaneously in person and online. 

What will the virtual school day be like? 

The virtual school day will entail a mix of live, scheduled instruction (a.k.a. synchronous) and lessons and assignments to complete independently (a.k.a. asynchronously). Virtual learning will take place on Microsoft Teams, which was the platform students used in 2020-21 to learn from home.  

What technology is IDEA providing to support virtual learners? 

Virtual learners will need a computer, tablet or other device on which to participate in online classes and complete their work. That device will need to be connected to reliable Internet access that is fast enough to support two-way video. If a student does not have a device for virtual learning, IDEA will provide one. Counselors at the student’s current IDEA school can advise on programs to access high-speed Internet service at home.  

What responsibilities do parents have for supporting their student’s virtual learning? 

Families should designate an adult who will monitor the student’s virtual school day, ensuring they are attending at the right times and completing their assignments. This adult will also be the liaison to the student’s online teachers.   

Can RISE students in grades K-6 participate in virtual learning? 

All virtual learning students need to meet the eligibility criteria. In addition, for RISE students, their Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) committee will need to determine if the virtual program meets the student’s special needs and is allowable under the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP)Virtual learning is likely not the best option for RISE students. 

Can students enroll in IDEA Virtual Academy after this initial application period? 

Students may transfer into virtual learning at the school year’s next quarterly transition points — in January and March. We will not be able to accommodate movement in between these transitions. 

Is IDEA offering a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning? 

No. There is no “hybrid” option combining in-person and virtual instruction.  

How long will virtual learning be available? 

IDEA plans to reevaluate our virtual learning program once vaccines are widely available for all K-12 students.   

While a student is quarantining at home, should they enroll in virtual learning? 

No. When an in-person student must temporarily isolate at home because of COVID illness, or must quarantine because of contact with an ill person, the student’s school will provide ways for them to continue learning while at home. 

Can virtual learners participate in in-person extracurricular activities? 

Yes. While all their academic classes will be online, students in virtual learning may participate in extracurricular activities at the campus where they were most recently enrolled — in person. 

Will school meals be available to Virtual Academy students? 

Yes, on days they attend Virtual Academy, students may receive meals from the IDEA school they were attending in person. Parents should contact the school to arrange for meal pickup on campus.  

My student is behind in school. Is virtual learning a good choice for them? 

If your IDEA student is behind, learning from home on a computer is not the best way for them to catch up. Attending school every day, in person, is the most effective way for students to achieve academically and prepare for success in college. In addition, students currently below grade level may not meet the academic requirements to enroll in virtual learning. 

Which health conditions make a student potentially eligible for IDEA Virtual Academy? 

Individuals at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are those individuals with certain underlying heath conditions as designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These conditions include: asthma, chronic lung disease, compromised immune systems (including from smoking, cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, or use of corticosteroids or other immune weakening medications), diabetes, serious heart disease (including heart failure, coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathies, and hypertension), chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis, liver disease, or severe obesity.  

Students who live with someone who has one of these high-risk health conditions may also be eligible for virtual learning. The student’s application for virtual learning must include a letter from a licensed medical doctor, although such a letter does not guarantee eligibility. 

Is IDEA Virtual Academy available to students who are not currently enrolled in an IDEA school? 

To participate in virtual learning at IDEA, students must first be enrolled at an IDEA campus. Then the student can transfer into virtual learning provided they meet the eligibility criteria. IDEA will prioritize students for virtual learning who have been with us since the beginning of this school year. After currently enrolled students, we look forward to welcoming back former IDEA students as space is available, and if there’s further space, to welcoming students and families who are new to IDEA.  

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