The enrollment period for the second semester of Virtual School is now open for children who are eligible to attend Department of Defense schools on military installations around the world, grades K-12.
The Department of Defense Education Activity will continue to operate the schools full-time, in person, for the remainder of this semester and for the second semester, officials said in an announcement, but they are giving parents the option of choosing the virtual school, as they did for the first semester, or going to in-person learning at their local school.
The deadline for making the choice is Friday, Nov. 6. This time period will allow for parents of children currently in the DoD Virtual School to have a parent-teacher conference before making a decision for the second semester, officials said.
Parents can register for the option for each child using the DoDEA Aspen Family Portal at https:/familyportal.dodea.edu/aspenparentportal/logon.do. Parents use the login ID and password provided by email and follow the instructions provided; they must provide a selection for each child using that child’s unique login ID and password.
Families who want their children to remain in their current in-person learning at their local school don’t have to take action. But those who want to switch to or out of Virtual School, or continue in the Virtual School should take action, according to the DoDEA website. Officials ask that parents of children currently in Virtual School who want their students to remain there, re-register their child for the second semester by logging in to the Aspen Family Portal, using the same process. This helps with their scheduling for the Virtual School.
The Virtual School semester will begin on Jan. 19. The schedule may vary for in-person instruction at local schools.
Schooling at the local level is taking different forms. If the installation’s Health Protection Condition is set at A or B, students go to the classroom. If it moves to HPCON C, schools move to remote learning.
DoDEA has put in place safety requirements and precautionary measures for its schools, following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and DoD guidance. As health conditions related to COVID-19 have changed at locations around the world, various DoDEA schools have moved between in-person learning and remote learning.
Students enrolled in the virtual option commit to at least one semester.
At DoDEA, the Virtual School is different from remote learning. DoDEA has long had a fully accredited virtual high school, for grades 9 to 12. DoDEA high school students all over the world have taken classes with teachers who themselves are in a variety of locations. The school system has expanded the Virtual School to include elementary grades K to 5, and middle school grades 6 to 8, recognizing that students and families with health vulnerabilities related to COVID may have concerns about returning to school in person.
Remote learning, which is what most students were doing this spring, happens if local COVID-19 infections escalate and the installation goes to HPCON C. The remote learning involves students staying at home and continuing their learning online with their local classroom teacher, until the school reopens.
For the fall semester, about 9,000 students signed up for the Virtual School option, or about 13 percent of the student population of about 69,000. An estimated 8,700 educators work in DoDEA.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.