Brockton parents beg school committee to keep virtual school open

BROCKTON — Fred Bond is a fourth-grade student at the Brockton Virtual Learning Academy. Bond, who is 10 years old, has never known another school.

But Bond will have to attend a physical school for fifth grade next year, as the city plans to close the Brockton Virtual Learning Academy’s elementary-level program in June.

“I have social anxiety and I feel like when I’m on the computer I feel more in place because you don’t have a big crowd looking at you,” Bond said at a Brockton School Committee meeting on April 23.

Brockton Public Schools announced in August that the Brockton Virtual Learning Academy (BVLA) elementary school will be cut starting in the 2024-2025 school year. The move was part of a larger slate of cuts and changes to several school programs.

“I love this school. I really want it to stay. I have one more year and I just really am hoping it doesn’t shut down,” Bond said.

When was Brockton Virtual Learning Academy created?

Administrators considered creating a virtual school as far back as 2019, but BVLA first opened in the 2021-2022 school year and was expected to stay open permanently. The elementary program now serves students in grades two through five. Fred Bond started his school career virtually during COVID and then transitioned to the BVLA.

Bond and his two siblings, ages 8 and 16, all go to BVLA alongside a small group of Brockton students who prefer to learn remotely rather than sitting in a physical classroom.

“My son has known nothing but this school. He’s grown up in this school and he feels safe,” said his mother Lisa Bond, as she struggled to fight back tears, at an April 9 committee meeting.

“This school has really been a saving grace for him,” she said.

BVLA offers alternative way to learn

The cuts only impact the school’s elementary students, and the program will continue serving kids in grades six through twelve. Bond’s oldest child, who’s in high school, can still go to BVLA. But her son Fred will have to attend a physical school for one year before he can return to BVLA for sixth grade.

Lisa Bond said her son is having “such anxiety about going back.”

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“I didn’t want my son’s mental health to go. I didn’t want my daughter to be scared to go back to school. This is all they know,” said Bond.

“They’re excited to go to school in the morning. They’re excited to learn,” she added.

Students who struggle with social anxiety or other mental health issues can feel terrified to go back to school in Brockton, where problems surrounding safety and security are on the decline but are still present. BVLA keeps these students in the district by offering an alternative, virtual way to learn.

“I don’t want my kids to go back to regular school because this is what they want,” Bond said. “My kids love this school, they depend on this school, and it’s been keeping me up at night.”

Technology education for kids

According to the BVLA website, the school teaches “skills needed for success in the digital age” and “embraces technology as a tool to connect with worldwide learning opportunities.”

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“We cannot ignore the importance of adapting to the future of technology in education,” said BVLA parent Candice Howard at the April 9 school committee meeting. “Every child deserves the opportunity the thrive in the learning environment whether that may be virtual or in person.”

Howard and her daughter Journey, who is currently enrolled in BVLA, both spoke at back-to-back board meetings, urging the school committee to reconsider its decision to end the program.

“Even at 9 years old I understand that closing our school is not the solution to the problem,” said Journey Howard. “We are the future that will one day sit in the seat you’re sitting in.”

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Enrollment numbers in BPS have been plummeting over the last decade as more families switch to other school districts. According to data from the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), roughly 300 Brockton students attend schools outside of Brockton through the state’s school choice program.

According to DESE, roughly 20 students in grades two through five are enrolled in BVLA this school year, and 159 total students currently attend the virtual school.

“They learn more on the computer. They know more,” Bond said. “They’re able to navigate stuff that typically they wouldn’t be able to navigate in a normal school.”

“This school really does mean the world to me and my kids, and it was really a blessing to have it in the first place,” she said.


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