Plans for January: In-person school vs. Virtual Learning Academy


Ella Presley

Pick your learning tools: paper and pencil or Chromebook and keyboard.

Virtual and remote learning, NTI (Non-Traditional Instruction), online school, and VLA (Virtual Learning Academy) are all the words students are hearing these days; all describing one concept. But what do they mean, how is it working, and what are the plans for this coming semester? 

At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, families were told that all FCPS instruction would be according to NTI, which is what was available starting in March of 2020 when in-person schools first closed. This year, the Virtual Learning Academy was introduced for families who do not want to return to in-person instruction in 2020-2021 because of health risks concerning COVID-19. 

According to Fayette County Public Schools NTI is, “An alternative to traditional in-person on campus instruction employed to continue teaching and learning when schools or school districts cannot be open due to circumstances like inclement weather or widespread illness.” 

They described VLA as, “An online learning program that students participate in rather than in-person or campus instruction. (It) follows the same calendar as the district and has set hours for students to attend online meetings and participate in virtual classes. The daily time commitment is comparable to in-school instructional time.” 

The VLA’s executive director is Soraya Matthews. The Academy has 1,063 students and 28 teachers in total. It is staffed by Fayette County teachers who cannot return because of health reasons, part time teachers specifically hired, or full time teachers who agree to the additional responsibility. Students must commit to VLA for the whole semester but can join or quit starting the next semester. In total, the opening of the Virtual Learning Academy cost the district $800,000. A decision has not been made on whether VLA will be open in 2021-2022.

For more information and opinions on the Virtual Learning Academy, visit this link.

Digital learning has greatly affected and shifted teaching and learning. Like all change, online schooling comes with advantages and challenges. 

Positives of Remote Learning Negatives Remote Learning
  • expanded options for advanced placement and foreign language courses
  • more opportunities for tutoring
  • helps prepare students for college
  • allows for more frequent assessment of students’ progress
  • empowers students to learn time management skills
  • improves technology skills
  • lack of technical support
  • internet difficulties and problems
  • overall deficiency of social interaction


If FCPS returns to in-person school this coming semester, the typical school day will look very different.  Fortunately, FCPS has and will continue to enforce their guidelines throughout the school day. The school day will include multiple temperature checks, sanitization breaks, social distancing, and masks will be worn all day.  

According to FCPS, if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, the “response to an individual case will depend largely on the circumstances surrounding the case and contact(s) the individual had within the school setting.”  Schools and classrooms will close and transition to NTI/2DL “after an increase in a spread in COVID-19.”

FCPS is in close communication with the Lexington Fayette County Health Department in order to ensure the best health among the FCPS community.  

For further information on FCPS’ plan for January, click here.

Cerise Archer, a freshman at Lafayette High School believes, “FCPS has done well in regards to setting up for returning to school” and she believes, “They have adapted much better than they did last year which will make for a better transition going back to school.” Archer looks forward to “form[ing] connections with teachers and peers.”

Mrs. Breeze, who has a child attending Lafayette High School, voices her concern, “That kids would come to school sick and not follow guidelines.” However, she feels that “students need socialization and in-person teaching to thrive academically, socially, and mentally.” This shows the importance of returning to school in person. The FCPS staff claimed to “have made every effort to teach the children.”  

FCPS will continue to re-envision, reimagine, and renew what online learning will look like this year and in years to come; no matter the circumstances, and if it means doing something different.