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VIP experiences learning curve
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Director of Schools Grant Swallows acknowledged at the August School Board meeting the VIP@Home program has endured a bit of a bumpy start due to its large enrollment, but Swallows and his staff are responding to the challenges the popularity of the program has created.

“This many students is not what we were prepared for in the remote learning environment,” said Swallows during the Aug. 20 meeting.

The expectation for the Virtual Instruction Program was for enrollment around 300, but the pandemic made a significant number of parents and students apprehensive about a traditional classroom setting. Enrollment in VIP quadrupled expectations.

“The VIP@Home program had four teachers. Four teachers can’t handle 1,300 students, folks,” Swallows said at the August meeting. “So we had to go back to teachers and schools and say alright, we’ve got to reorganize. Just like our schools and school administrators always do, they took the bull by the horns.”

The school system has responded by beefing up faculty within VIP.

“We added an elementary coordinator to the VIP program as well as moving a current VIP teacher to a high school coordinator role,” Swallows said Wednesday. “From there, the schools identified teachers who would work with student in the VIP@Home Program.”

“Every school is unique,” Swallows added. “Some schools have one teacher, some schools have three, and some have all teachers working with VIP@Home students.”

Dr. Courtney Bennett, administrator of adult education for Warren County Schools, heads up VIP@Home. 

Bennett pointed out the VIP students learn in a different manner than students enrolled in a classroom setting.

“Remote learning is different by nature than that of face-to-face instruction,” explained Dr. Bennett. “There is less real-time interaction with a teacher.”

“VIP@Home students still have interaction with their teachers via email, phone call, or Zoom meetings,” said Bennett. “Students who opt to learn at home predominantly learn in an asynchronous manner, being that live instruction does not take place.”

“I would like to say that our teachers have done a phenomenal job of working with students in both the hybrid and VIP@Home environment,” said Bennett. “I think that sometimes people forget we are in the middle of a global pandemic, educating our students in a manner that no teacher or school administrator in our lifetime has done.”

Swallows echoed Bennett’s statement regarding there being no guidebook to educating during a pandemic.

“It equates to our staff basically having their trusty tool belt taken away and handing them one with tools they haven’t used consistently and asking them to go build a house in a day,” said Swallows. “It’s been a work in progress just like everything else during this pandemic.”

“We have spent an enormous amount of time and resources in order to offer this method of instruction during a tough time in our country,” said Swallows. “I am thankful for everyone and their understanding.”