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N.Y.C. Offers Virtual Classes for Storm-Displaced Students

By guest blogger Mike Bock

New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced an e-learning initiative this week that will allow 6th- through 12th-grade students who were displaced from their homes by Hurricane Sandy to participate in virtual classes, a strategy other schools districts have used after major storms.

According to a Department of Education press release, classes will be offered via iZone, the Department of Education's online learning program, and through the donation of program licenses from online learning companies Apex Learning, Desire2Learn, and Powerspeak.

A number of teachers who are familiar with iZone have volunteered to teach the courses online and hold office hours via phone and online video calls. Students without computer access will be able to use computers in some public libraries in the city.

"Hurricane Sandy was one of the worst storms our city has seen, and through great effort, we were able to open 96 percent of our schools just one week later and relocate the students and staff from damaged buildings," said Chancellor Walcott in a press release.

"Still, some of our families have not been able to return to their homes, and the impact on students demands more resources to ensure they get the education they need. These online courses will help keep our students on track for their academic success."

This isn't the first time technology has been used to keep students learning after a natural disaster. After a tornado completely leveled five of the 20 school buildings in Joplin, Mo., in May 2011, the district embarked on an ambitious 1-to-1 laptop plan to ensure its students received a quality education.

For more information about online learning, be sure to check out Education Week's special reports on e-learning.

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