Enrollment triples, location expands for Jackson Public Schools virtual school

JACKSON, MI – South Central Michigan Virtual isn’t an alternative school, but it is an alternative to traditional schools.

Traditional classes can be too fast, too slow or not challenging enough to some students, SCMV director Fred Parker said.

SCMV is part of Jackson Public Schools. Its full-time virtual classes allow students to go at their own pace during 18-week semesters.

The school has tripled its enrollment since opening in August 2016, with almost 300 students and 1,500 courses offered now.

The center is located in Jackson Crossing near Target and the Goodrich Jackson 10 Theater and was recently expanded to include a new learning lab. Students can work from home or go to the center, which is open six days a week, for more one-on-one tutoring.

“It’s like homeschooling but in a big school district,” Parker said. “Parents can be home with their child as they work in an environment they feel comfortable in. We provide certified teachers who customize the learning experience. You don’t have to keep their education to a classroom — it’s on the go, just like everything else in their lives.”

As part of a public school district, SCMV is tuition-free and laptops are provided to students who need them.

“Education has changed. Alternative and online education used to be just something for kids who couldn’t behave, but now we’re moving toward this type of education,” Kriss Giannetti, JPS director of communications, said.

Interest in virtual learning is growing, with several parents and grandparents stopping by the center a day to get more information, Giannetti said. Those interested in enrolling can get a packet or be redirected to the online enrollment page.

Almost a dozen students come in to be tutored a day, Parker said.

“We took advantage of something we knew was already happening,” Giannetti said. “The world is changing into an electronic world. We wanted to get ahead of the game and provide a service that’s not only growing, but students will benefit from.”

There are hundreds of electives available for students, such as Mandarin Chinese and video game coding, but core classes like English and math are still required.

If a student falls behind, SCMV offers credit forgiveness and students who complete a class early can pick up another course, depending on the amount of time left in the semester.

Early college classes are also available.

“This is customized learning,” Parker said. “We are bringing what students are doing to their cell phones, their tablet, their computer. There’s a world of difference in how people operate now. We’re working within that space.”

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