During my junior year of high school, I ended up having to transfer into virtual education for two of my classes partway through the year. There were a lot of factors that contributed to the switch- limited resources in the traditional classroom, problems with creating accessible materials, a lack of assistive technology, and my then-undiagnosed chronic illness (read more about that here) all played a role in why I made the switch. This really was the best option for me, and today I will be sharing how to transfer to a virtual class mid-year, without a lot of drama.
Why I didn't fight for inclusion
There are many words that can describe the situations that led me to transfer out of the physical classroom setting. I could have put up more of a fight, gotten legal services involved, and made the teachers miserable for not following my IEP accommodations. But my family and I realized that no matter what we did, my grades would likely stay the same and the teacher would receive no repercussions for their actions. It was not completely their fault that the classroom was not equipped to handle a student with low vision, and it was far easier to transfer to the virtual program that was used to having students with disabilities, so that way I would have the opportunity to improve my grades. We did report what happened to the school, but did not take any further action once I was removed from the classroom. An important part of self advocacy is learning when to take a step back- read more about learning to self advocate here.
Look at program options
My second school district offered a full virtual education program for all general education classes and a select amount of electives. My state also offered a virtual education program that had AP classes, foreign languages, and some electives. I chose to use the program from my school district so I didn’t have to worry about being behind in the class-the virtual classes taught at the same pace as physical classes. Read more about virtual classes in high school here.
To execute a midyear switch, my family and I had to collect documentation of why it was necessary. Luckily, this was very easy, because the school was aware of the toxic classroom environment I was in, so we just had to show my poor grades that were directly linked to my classroom materials not being made accessible. For more on collecting documentation, read this post here.
Talk to your case manager and guidance counselor
I started talking about switching classes with my IEP case manager, and they agreed that it would be a good idea, given how I could easily receive my accommodations in the virtual classroom- read more about why I prefer my schoolwork digitally here. After that, I talked to my guidance counselor to see how this would affect my schedule, as in some cases a student may need their schedule rearranged. Lucky for me, it was an easy switch and none of my other classes ended up being changed.
Reach out to the virtual program coordinator
I had taken virtual classes with my school district before, so we knew the virtual program coordinator well. They helped a lot with getting me set up in the class and also helped authorize the switch into virtual classes. I highly recommend reaching out to them, as things can move quickly once they are aware of the situation.
Often times, the class switch does not happen overnight, unless there is an emergency situation. An IEP violation is usually not considered an emergency situation. It took about a week for me to transition from a physical classroom to the virtual class once school staff were involved.
I remember for one of my classes, I asked my case manager if I could transition out of one of my classes for my birthday (which is around the semester mark). A few days later, my case manager called me in on my birthday and said they were making the switch and I would start in my new class the next week. I had to participate in the science fair first though- read more about my project here and about participating in science fairs here.
Leaving the old class
My case manager and guidance counselor notified the classroom teachers that I was transferring from their class to a virtual class. They did not have me do this because they were worried I would receive negative comments or otherwise be ridiculed for my disability. I never had to talk to these teachers again. Read more about my experiences being bullied by teachers here.
Joining the new class
I sent an email to my new teachers on the first day of school introducing myself and telling them that I have an IEP for low vision. However, I told them that they didn’t have to worry about enlarging my materials as long as they were posted in formats I could edit, which ended up working out well. Read more about how to create accessible documents in Microsoft Word here.
I never told my teachers why I had switched into their class, because teachers talk and I didn't want them to think of me negatively in case they knew my former teacher.
What if people ask where I went?
For one of my classes, a handful of students noticed that the teacher would treat me poorly, and one day I simply disappeared from the class. Some students came up to me and asked where I went, and I would just say that my schedule changed. I didn’t want to change their perception of the teacher or bring any more drama into an already awful situation, so I just left it at that. A year later, I ended up becoming close friends with a student who had been in my class, and I told them what had really happened. Other than that, none of my other classmates ever knew what went down, and I liked it that way.
Transferring classes mid-year can be stressful, but by following these steps, the transition can occur smoothly and peacefully. I wish you the best of luck!