Alexandria’s students log in to virtual learning in outdoor Learning Labs

Virginia

The Alexandria Soccer Association is facilitating the City of Alexandria Public School’s online learning program, or Virtual Plus+, at George Washington Middle School.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WDVM) — The Alexandria Soccer Association is facilitating the City of Alexandria Public School’s online learning program, or Virtual Plus+, with outdoor Learning Labs at George Washington Middle School for elementary students. It’s one of many ACPS partners who’ve lifted the load off parents — who have one less thing to juggle — and teachers, who can be rest assured their students have a dependable internet connection. Counselors, coaches and aides make sure they stay on schedule. 

The school system provides the space and food (and janitorial staff who clean up behind the kids every few hours) and ASA provides the support, Tuesdays through Fridays, rain or shine. John Crites, who directs support and services for ACPS’ IT Department, helped set up the technology. “We love the opportunity to help our students. If there’s an opportunity to help our students in Alexandria City Public Schools we jump at it,” he said. There’ve been minor glitches since they launched but Crites can troubleshoot from his office, just a few blocks away. 

The program is scheduled to last through nine weeks of ACPS’ virtual learning, and ASA plans to extend it if students aren’t back in the classroom by then. 

“We felt that being outdoors was going to be the best way that we could still support these kids’ learning experience in providing them with their own space and their ability to work efficiently and effectively while being safe,” said ASA Deputy Director Jim Hogan.

Paxton Davis is a third-grader at Mount Vernon Elementary School. His favorite subject is math and he wasn’t the biggest fan of learning online last spring. He prefers learning with other kids around. “This is much more fun, much more activities, much more experience, and much more fun playtime,” he said. 

Pandemic aside, the ASA serves almost 5,000 kids annually — as young as 2-years-old — and adults. “We’ve had to change our mentality and update how we interact with the city and gain trust from the parents,” said Hogan. “They are interacting with technology and their laptops and have to do a lot. And we see that. And we’ve had to be very creative in how we support them and interact with them and work with them with their schedule.”

On Mondays, the Alexandria Soccer Association engages over 200 kids in physical activity; one of the many ways the organization has replaced its after school program (currently on hold). “We’ve got a great experienced staff that has a lot of different backgrounds, whether it’s with education or child development, and we see opportunities to go out and do more,” Hogan said.

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