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Looking further into VIP program

As expected, there were some mixed feeling about my column about the possibility of having many – if not all – Pioneers and Lady Pioneers opt into the VIP program offered by Warren County Schools.

Some felt it was a good option, while others felt it was an outlandish idea which prioritized athletics over academics. What the WCSA website has strived to do in these last seven weeks is give people a chance to discuss all manners of sports topics, including one as complex as how student-athletes do in the classroom.

My reasoning is simple – I think the VIP program helps eliminate some risk when it comes to contact tracing. It would be a shame to see seasons lost or games cancelled and/or forfeited because of a rise in quarantines due to students being unable to properly social distance when WCHS has its hallways and classrooms full again. I don’t mind having some say all I am thinking about is sports – I’d tell them to look up what the ‘S’ in WCSA stands for.

What I do have an issue with is people saying it’s only about athletes or that this completely dismisses academics. Athletes aren’t the only people who can enroll into VIP programs – it is open to all Warren County students. If you feel like you’d like to avoid the possibility of your student – whether they are an athlete or not – going into quarantine due to contact tracing, then maybe you should be looking into the VIP program too.

I know I did.

In fact, Dr. Courtney Bennett, Ed.D. – the director of the program – was gracious enough to answer some questions for me about the VIP program.

Simmons: What is the VIP Program and how is it aiding in the instruction of our children?

Bennett: The VIP is an online instruction program that allows students to learn in a remote environment. Currently, there are three programs under the VIP umbrella.

Our traditional VIP program is designed for juniors and seniors who need to learn in a smaller, more structured environment. Traditional VIP students come on campus each day and receive instruction from teachers in both real-time and online. Annually, the traditional VIP serves approximately 100-140 students.

Our VIP FLEX option allows juniors and seniors who currently work or who have certain circumstances at home (such as a parent who is critically ill) to learn on campus or online four hours per day and work at a job four hours per day.

Our other program option is our VIP@Home option which has been at the center of our district’s CoVid19 response. Our VIP@Home program offers students the option to learn in a fully remote environment.

VIP@Home students receive their instruction from regular classroom teachers who have access to a state-aligned content curriculum. Teachers may also supplement their online instruction with teacher-produced videos, or via Zoom meetings with students. Teachers and students keep in contact using email, text, or phone.

What is the day-to-day experience for a student in the program?

Bennett: Day-to-day experiences may be different for all VIP@Home students as all students are able to work at any time during a 24-hour period. Students must work on class assignments each day in order to be counted present each day. However, students may choose to set their own schedule. Some students work better first thing in the morning, while others enjoy working during the evening.

How have students been doing in the program this year - are you seeing a good response from it?

Bennett: Online learning offers a lot of flexibility for students and parents, but sometimes that flexibility can create challenges that traditional students would not typically encounter. The challenge of time management and the ability to be self-disciplined enough to work online daily sometimes creates challenges.

Students who work well independently may thrive in an online environment where students who need more face-to-face interaction may not fare as well.

Online learning is something that isn’t going to go away anytime soon. Many colleges now require freshmen to take at least one online course. Having our students ready to face those post secondary expectations is setting our students up to be successful.

What are challenges - if any - of a virtual program?

Bennett: Online learning requires a lot of time and individual effort. Students have control of their own learning experience, but at the same time, they have to be disciplined as far as staying on task and keeping up with all of their online assignments.

What benefits does the VIP program offer that may not be understood in the community currently?

Bennett: One huge benefit of our program is the flexibility for students and families it can offer and it can provide a safe learning environment for students who may be at-risk health wise or who live with a parent or family member with a compromised immune system. Students or families who are concerned about the risks associated with CoVid19 may find the VIP@Home a viable option.


It is this simple – all students (along with their parents) have the choice on how they want to attend school. The problem comes when they don’t have a choice whether to attend school, games, work or anything else if they are put into quarantine for contact tracing. Now if you want to push for the elimination of contact tracing quarantines (like Putnam County has), then I’m all for that discussion too.

As of right now though, contact tracing quarantine is going to be put to the ultimate test starting Oct. 12. It hasn’t been a big issue so far, but some students – AND yes, some athletes – may not want to chance it.

The great thing is, as Dr. Bennett explained, there is a viable option for those who aren’t willing to risk the time, effort and hard work they have put in and place their fate in the hands of somebody other than themselves.

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