GRAPEVINE — Students get help preparing for college in schools across the country through AVID, a program that raises student expectations while providing academic support.Starting this fall, Texas students will be able to use the same program at Grapevine-Colleyville’s open enrollment online academy. The district is working to create the tuition-free public virtual academy in time for the new school year.When classes begin Aug. 27, the virtual academic program will include AVID. The partnership, the first in the nation, takes established learning methods from the brick-and-mortar classroom setting to virtual classrooms of tomorrow.“It’s very much a new frontier,” said Wendell Brown, director of AVID’s central division in Dallas. AVID is the acronym for Advancement Via Individual Determination. The program helps students gain study skills that will help them succeed in school. It began at one California high school in the 1980s and has expanded to 4,900 schools.Students enrolled at iUniversity Prep virtual academy will be the first in the nation to have access to AVID in the virtual learning environment, according to the Grapevine-Colleyville school district. The district already offers AVID at the middle- and high-school levels at its traditional campuses.The virtual school is the district’s new statewide tuition-free online public school. The program will offer online coursework in a flexible format. “It’s like we have opened a new school in the district,” said Kaye Rogers, director of the virtual academy.It is the only virtual academy in Tarrant County, officials said. The Houston and Texarkana school districts currently operate tuition-free online virtual academies.AVID strategies will be taught school-wide through classes offered at iUniversity Prep. Teachers and tutors are being trained to use the AVID program.The virtual academy will also offer the AVID elective course for students.Rogers said they will use AVID principles while working with a generation of digital native students — people born and raised in a culture that includes digital technology.“We are giving kids the tried and true strategies to be successful,” Rogers said.Strategies such as time management, portfolios and a note-taking technique established by a professor at Cornell University, will be “tweaked” for the virtual setting, Rogers said.Academy teachers Jessica Lee and Heath Hamrick said they are glad the AVID program will be incorporated into their lessons. They said their work taking AVID to virtual learners will eventually become a model.“This is amazing. This is cutting edge education,” Hamrick said.Currently, more than 100 students are enrolled at the virtual academy, Rogers said. The academy is expected to serve 400 to 500 nontraditional full-time students. The academy’s first year will include students in grades 6-11, Rogers said. The following year, it will add a senior grade level. Lower grades — 5 through 3— will be subsequently added a year at a time.The virtual school is expected to boost the district’s declining enrollment. State dollars tied to daily attendance will go to Grapevine-Colleyville even if the students live outside of the district’s boundaries.“They are our kids,” Rogers said. “Once they come in, they become ours and we are going to take care of them.” This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Diane Smith, 817-390-7675 Twitter: @dianeasmith1