Two years after the Lucerne Valley Virtual Academy was started as an option for families during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program is still going strong and with no end in sight.
“I’m really amazed at what you’re doing,” school board member Jim Harvey said following Virtual Academy teacher Cindy Lazenby’s year-end wrap-up at this month’s meeting of the Lucerne Valley USD’s Board of Trustees. “You’re improving it every year,” Superintendent Peter Livingston added.
The proof of the program’s viability is in the number of success stories, Mrs. Lazenby said. Some students have flourished in the program with several graduating high school early. Others have discovered the Virtual Academy option to be a better fit.
The Virtual Academy, whose campus is located at the northern end of Middle High School beyond the track, is headed Mrs. Lazenby, formerly a Middle High School teacher with decades of experience, and fellow veteran teacher Mary Eller, who brings decades of elementary school experience. Lindsay Evans joined the team earlier this year. A math tutor also assists when needed.
The Virtual Academy provides a diverse curriculum for its students. Art instruction is provided once a week via Zoom. Students participate in art history lessons and Imitating Art projects, which has students recreating class art pieces. Students have special lessons studying weather and the types of clouds. High schoolers participated in invasive species research. Using the Acellus math program, first graders studied the value of three. Virtual Academy students had special English Language, Social Students, Geography and History lessons.
The teachers will be increasingly using MyLexia, Happy Numbers, Quill.org, and I-Ready, along with Acellus, for their curriculum, she said. Additionally they will have more in-person writing days to provide more assistance for students who need it, and Zoom and tele-conferencing is available for any student.
“The parent support is critical.”
Virtual Academy student also enjoy once-a-week in-person days. Mrs. Lazenby said. “We let them have fun because they’re not in school with everybody else all the time. You’ve got to balance that.”
In-person classes included a field trip to the Barstow Veterans Home, reading from Dr. Seuss, counting the number of seeds in a pumpkin, learning Christmas traditions, recognizing Groundhog’s Day, participating in an Ugly Sweater day, STEM challenges, competing in the Egg Drop Challenge and Pinewood Derby, learning about the importance of bees from guest speaker Sue Nolan of the Desert Crossroads Garden Club, and aeronautics from aeronautical engineer Josh Brander, who Mrs. Lazenby taught when he attended LVHS. The year finished with students taking a field trip to the Palm Springs Air Museum.
Mrs. Lazenby expects 22 students to come back to begin the 2022-23 school year with 12 middle/high school students and 10 elementary school aged students. Like the previous school years, the number of students is likely to grow as the year goes on.
“It’s been amazing to see you guys adapt,” school board member Jason Hansen said.
Younger Virtual Academy students get their Pinewood Derby cars ready for competition.