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Madison Promise Academy enrollment period begins
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Madison Promise Academy enrollment period begins

Virtual School Photo Essay 14-03102021164220 (copy)

Zuri Taylor, a then-sixth grader at O'Keeffe Middle School, attends virtual school from a desk in the kitchen of her Madison home on Jan. 5.

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Madison Metropolitan School District sixth through 12th graders can begin enrolling in the district's new virtual academy as of Monday.

Enrollment in Madison Promise Academy, which will be a dedicated virtual school for 200-250 students, is open until Aug. 6. The district created the option following a year of virtual learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic that came with plenty of challenges.

The school will differ from what students and families experienced during the pandemic, however. Teachers will be dedicated solely to online students rather than a mix of online and in-person instruction like they were this spring during concurrent learning.

“A lot of our students are really thriving in the online environment, so what we want to do is we want to make sure that as a district we are providing those options to our families to be able to just do that,” MMSD director of instructional technology and media services TJ McCray told the School Board in April. “We have to design a program that will be like none other in Wisconsin and we can do that.”

[Madison Promise Academy will feature honors courses, tutoring online]

The School Board approved $840,000 in the 2021-22 budget to fund MPA, covering teacher and administrator costs for one year of the program.

Many school districts in Wisconsin and around the country are considering virtual options, an acknowledgement that some parents and families preferred online learning. 

District officials will offer six virtual informational sessions that parents and students can sign up for: July 20 at 3:30 p.m., July 22 at 3:30 p.m. and July 27 at noon and 4 p.m. An informational session in Spanish is planned for July 20 at 4:30 p.m. and a session in Hmong is planned for July 22 at 4:30 p.m. Those interested must sign up ahead of time.

According to the district’s website, the final course options will depend on enrollment and student needs, but core classes like math, science, history and language arts and some electives are possible for both middle and high schools. That includes exploring music, photography and career exploration in grades 6-8 and introduction to social media, introduction to finance and medical terminology for high school students.

Students interested in applying will have to answer essay questions either in writing or via video:

  • Why would you like to attend the Promise Virtual Program? Please include how the virtual program would impact both your academic and personal areas of development.
  • Success in virtual learning differs from student to student. Please take a moment to describe what you believe success will look like for you as a student and what plan(s) you will put in place to ensure that you achieve your definition of success.
  • With virtual learning comes many challenges that students and families will have to overcome. Please identify challenges you believe you will need to overcome with virtual learning and how you will overcome these challenges.
  • Optional: Some students have a story or personal experience on why virtual learning works for them as a student. Please take a moment to add any additional information that you feel would make an impact on your application for the virtual program.

Students will be able to participate in clubs, athletics and other co-curricular activities through their attendance area school if enrolled at MPA.

[MMSD to return to five days a week in-person instruction in fall]

School Board members have offered strong support for the program, at least for this year. Some have expressed concerns about creating a long-term school option without broader conversations, but agreed that coming out of the pandemic required creative solutions.

Students enrolling are committed to completing at least one semester through MPA.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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