School, bag, backpack.

Avondale Elementary School District announced the launch of the Avondale Virtual Innovation Academy on May 11. 

Scheduled to start in August, the program will be available for students from third to eighth grade. This will be the first online academy at AESD to serve students from anywhere in the state. 

Angela Smith was announced as the virtual academy’s new coordinator. 

“We are excited to be able to offer our families a whole different look. It is going to be lots of STEM and STEAM activities, robotics, esports, definitely something that’s going to keep the school and home connected,” Smith said.

Smith said the new program’s concept is a “log in to live learning” experience. Additionally, she said a program like this is perfect for families of children who need a different style of learning.

“We want to get away from the stigma of the digital academies being COVID related and really bring something to our district that is going to be innovative and exciting and educational but also interface for our students, and then a different platform for those students that learn better in an online environment,” she said.

While Smith said the virtual academy would have happened regardless of the pandemic, she admitted that the coronavirus did reinforce the importance of creating such a program. Smith added that the launch of the virtual academy was inevitable, as many other schools offer an online platform. 

“The pandemic kind of showed us that in different platforms, different educational settings, everybody can learn and then use those skills to get them ready for college and career world where before I think we didn’t really put as much faith in online learning because it was an inclusive-type environment,” Smith said. “So, I think having to do it because of the pandemic really opened the doors and really opened people’s minds to what it can be in the potential of it.”

Smith said the virtual academy is ideal for students who learn better on the online platform and students who need the flexibility. 

“It was just a matter of time before we offered it as a district to stay cutting edge and to really offer our families something that met their schedule, met their flexibility, that honors their learning,” she said. 

The program’s goal is to reach and provide a quality education for those students who are nontraditional learners, Smith said. 

“This will allow students to really flourish because they are in a very comfortable environment, a very comfortable setting that allows them to have no fear in responding and to collaborating with others, because they were in the comfort of their own home,” Smith said.

Dr. Betsy Hargrove, AESD superintendent, said the program is innovative and will have the opportunity to serve students beyond the Avondale community.

“Innovation is at the core of the new entity. The opportunities offered to our Avondale Virtual Innovation Academy students are centered around interest-based learning and project-based elements,” Hargrove said.

Enrollment for the Avondale Virtual Innovation Academy is open and will continue to stay open all summer as families decide what educational platform is best for their students this coming fall. 

The district is also hiring staff to teach the live lessons. 

Interested families across Arizona may register by visiting the district’s website at chooseaesd.org or emailing avia@chooseaesd.org.