Virtual learning means increased opportunity, advocates say

TRENTON – Proponents of virtual learning told the Joint Committee on Public Schools Tuesday that giving students the opportunity to receive their education online enables students who don’t find traditional schooling stimulating  to learn at their own pace.

Officials of one regional school district – Penns Grove-Carney’s Point – said virtual learning saves the district money for summer school.

The school system has been using Learning Beyond, a virtual education service, to help with intervention of students.

It doesn’t charge the students for the service, officials said, because many of the kids are poor.

The district has 1,000 students between middle school and high school.

Another parent spoke highly of the North Star Academy Charter School in Newark, saying the students were more interested in learning material through innovation, and that teachers were more attentive and helped in the college search process.

To make sure virtual lessons are provided, Joseph Bentray of the Monmouth County Education Commission said districts need to make sure their infrastructure can accommodate enough bandwidth so that every student who wants to learn virtually could do so.

One extremely frustrated parent, Arthur Lang, from Lakewood, one of the lowest performing school districts in the state, called for more virtual learning opportunities in New Jersey, saying many of the students in that municipality don’t have access to a quality education. Lang previously taught at the high school there.

Last year, the Assembly Education Committee released a bill that would put a moratorium on “virtual” charter schools. Democrats on the committee supported the bill, while the Republicans voted no.

Following the lengthy hearing, Assemblywoman Connie Wagner, (D-38), of Fair Lawn, said she would be open to sponsoring legislation that would set up pilot programs for public school districts, not charter schools, to set up virtual learning programs.

She said she would meet with stakeholders, such as the New Jersey Education Association, to find ways to incorporate this method of teaching and learning.

Virtual learning means increased opportunity, advocates say