SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah-Chatham’s newest school is creating quite a buzz for families during the coronavirus pandemic.
The district began taking applications for their E-Learning Academy (SCELA) on Thursday and have seen a huge demand for the alternative learning environment.
“Everyone is making a team effort to ensure that we have a stellar program for our families,” explained Bernadette Ball-Oliver, SCCPSS Associate Superintendent of Secondary Schools. “So they will have a strong support structure as we move forward to make sure that anyone that attends SCELA has everything they need to be successful.”
Starting this fall, 3rd -12th grade students can attend the virtual school. Originally the district expected 900 students, but in less than 24 hours they had more than 1,400 applications.
“It’s just been amazing to see the response that has been generated,” said James Heater, E-Learning Academy principal.
James Heater is the school’s principal. He says applications are open until Mid-July and then district leaders will decide how many students can attend the new school. While they are currently working on hiring teachers, he says they will be specially trained for online learning. Students will be assigned a device for online classes, projects and more, but will also have some in-person experiences.
“We want to build those relationships with our students,” said Heater. “That’s the important aspect of making sure that the parents, the responsible adult, and that the teachers who are connecting with our children are building those relationships that’s what’s going to make the success of the E-Learning Academy.”
Leaders say they’ve been working to develop a virtual option like this, but COVID-19 expedited the process and offers a flexible option for families.
School officials feel the virtual school is best for students who are organized and focused. Students who enroll in the E-Learning Academy must have a responsible adult to assist and access to the internet. The E- Learning Academy does offer specific programming with the ability to remain in extra-curriculars, but it would mean a student relinquishes their spot at the current building.
“If the student is enrolled and they realize this is not the school for me, I really need that socialization, I really want to go back and see my friends every single day,” explained Dr. Angie Lewis, SCCPSS senior director for the office of college and career readiness. “They can ask to be transferred at the end of the semester and start school the beginning of the next semester.”
Those who have spend the past several months developing this virtual school say they are in the process of getting the school accredited, but are confident in what they are offering their students this fall.