Virtual Academy is an alternative option for your suspended or expelled student
Updated: Dec 10, 2018
Did you know: In the State of Kansas, children who’ve been expelled or long-term suspended do not have to be accepted into any other public or online school program. This creates a vacuum for troubled children, leaving them without any avenue to formal education. That means most of them end up wandering the streets during the day without anything else to do. In Finney County, that number is about 7-8 kids annually. Because many of these kids may already struggle with social, mental, and behavioral issues, this education void leaves them without the resources to learn how to better themselves and their situations.
In order to fill this void, Finney County Youth Services partnered with USD 457 to create the Virtual Academy. Thanks to this partnership, and financial aid from the Finney County Commission and other grants, we are now able to provide education while incorporating all our other prevention programs into a 360-degree approach to reaching these kids.
“We are trying to get out ahead of what we see happening in other school districts across the country with bullying and school shootings,” says Katrina Pollet, Department of Corrections Director. “With our programs, like an evidence-based bullying curriculum, we can help to lower the likelihood of a school shooter in Finney County.”
Beyond classroom learning, the experienced Youth Services staff engage in relationship building with the kids, incorporating other programs as needed throughout the day. “You have to establish a foundation before you can build on it,” says Nicole Nee, Youth Services Program Provider, on what she calls the key approach to reaching these kids. “The kids come in to my classroom with a clean slate.” As a trained program provider, Nee is able to tailor her classroom to the students’ individual needs. “If I see a child struggling in a certain area that day, I’ll switch from general education to relationship building or life skills coaching.” Many Youth Services staff are experienced in many areas to help them better reach the hard-to-reach kids.
The CSC’s Virtual Academy is nearly ten months old and already has seven enrolled students, five computer stations equipped with up-to-date educational software, a principal, full-time teaching staff employed by Finney County Youth Services, and special education teachers available after school hours. The partnership with USD 457 has helped to source experienced teaching staff, make all programs free of charge, and provide additional computers and resources to make space available in the Academy for up to 15 children.
Our Academy also provides lunch to the students every school day. When we realized some of our students weren’t going home for lunch because they didn’t have anything to eat, or they were only getting rice and beans every day, we were scrambling to figure out what we could do, and some staff were even giving away their own lunches. Now that we have contracted with our neighbor, the Juvenile Detention Center, we provide a free, hot lunch to every student, every day.