New NYC hybrid high school program could be fully remote by 2023

Remote learning could be here to stay.

New York City is rolling out two virtual learning programs for high schoolers — with the aim to turn them into full-blown remote schools by 2023.

The new initiative, called “A School Without Walls,” will offer hybrid and virtual learning for 200 rising ninth graders this fall.

“As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is abundantly clear that our education system needs to work for our young people in a way that it never has before,” said Mayor Eric Adams in a statement.

“This virtual academy is about giving our students the freedom in their learning to explore their interests, learn outside of the box, lean into their talents, and use our city’s incredible resources as their classroom.”

Officials described the program as moving “beyond the classroom,” giving students more freedom and flexibility to earn a high school diploma.

Students will also be officially enrolled in a traditional high school, while the DOE works with the state to turn the virtual academies into full-time schools that can grant diplomas.

Mayor Eric Adams said the virtual academy will provide students “freedom” in their learning.
Paul Martinka

“The pandemic underscored the importance of reimagining the student experience for our children, giving them the opportunity to freely pursue their interests and passions as part of their high school journey,” said Schools Chancellor David Banks.

“It is up to us as educators to meet students where they are with opportunities that empower them in their learning,” he added.

Both programs will be housed within school facilities, where teachers will provide live and pre-recorded instruction using DOE equipment and classrooms.

Students will also have access to those facilities, for counseling services, in-person clubs, sports and electives. The DOE said it will also provide laptops, and families can visit the brick-and-mortar locations for technology support.

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Hybrid students will attend school in person for half-days in Downtown Brooklyn, then finish their classes online.

Meanwhile, students who opt for the fully virtual model will sit for attendance and advisory in real-time, and take daily synchronous classes in the humanities, math and sciences.

This week’s announcement comes after months of Banks signaling interest in virtual learning since the start of his tenure as chancellor.

“I see it as a place of real innovation,” Banks said in an interview Wednesday with News 12. “We can really test out lots of different theories around technology and education.”

School Chancellor David C Banks speaks at a press conference.
School Chancellor David Banks said parents have expressed an interest in fully remote learning.
Matthew McDermott

“For example, if someone is a great physics teacher, and your school does not have a physics teacher, why couldn’t we provide access to a physics teacher who’s on the other side of town for those students virtually?”

“There are people around the world who could be teachers in our schools virtually.”

The DOE also seemed poised to expand the programs to more students, if families are interested.

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“I’m looking out for the response and the interest — when I find out how many parents are really interested in this,” Banks said.

The city’s virtual academies reflect a growing trend of more localities offering virtual options.

An analysis of the nation’s 20 largest school districts by the education nonprofit Chalkbeat found that almost all of them will offer remote classes this fall — and at least half are offering more full-time virtual options than they did pre-pandemic. Those include Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego, Philadelphia and the suburbs of Atlanta.

In New York City, officials said “A School Without Walls” was designed in collaboration with students and responds to the asks of them and their families.

The program ran as a pilot with the organization NYC Outward Bound Schools and included summer and fall internship opportunities to field-test potential projects and career opportunities. In the spring, student interns helped the design team shape the virtual academies, according to the DOE.

The deadline to apply is Wednesday, July 6. Students will be selected by lottery and notified of offers by mid-July.

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