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Schools’ motto: Teach every type of student

Special needs programs expand, including advanced courses at Virtual Catholic School

MIAMI| Last year, Marcey Ayers sat with the concerned parents of several students with intellectual disabilities and helped create a self-contained class for each one at the respective schools.

As coordinator of Special Programs for the archdiocesan Office of Schools, Ayers made sure that their teachers had the appropriate certifications and that the necessary accommodations were made. She also reassured the parents that there would be a Catholic high school for their child to attend in the future.

Marcie Ayers, coordinator of Special Programs for the archdiocesan Office of Schools, is pictured here at the July 2018 graduation of Samuel Ambroise, the first Miami graduate of the Archdiocese of Miami Virtual School. Ayers was his virtual school teacher.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Marcie Ayers, coordinator of Special Programs for the archdiocesan Office of Schools, is pictured here at the July 2018 graduation of Samuel Ambroise, the first Miami graduate of the Archdiocese of Miami Virtual School. Ayers was his virtual school teacher.

“It was very touching because those parents didn’t think that their children would be able to go to a Catholic high school,” said Ayers, who is certified in the areas of special education, emotional and behavioral disabilities and has worked in public, charter, and private schools.

“There is going to be a place for your child in our schools,” said Ayers. “Our Catholic schools are getting to the point where we can teach every type of student, from the advanced to those with special needs. It’s really exciting that every school has their own program, their own kind of way of delivering the support, but they can all accept and work with students.”

Her office is also partnering with the public-school sector to ensure that Catholic students have access to all the resources available at all levels of learning.

Students in honors and advanced levels can get ahead through the dual enrollment programs offered by the Archdiocese of Miami Virtual School ADOM-VCS. Middle schoolers can now earn up to five high school credits without missing regular classes at their school no commuting required.

“We still have everything in our brick and mortar schools. But let’s say maybe a school is very small, and they can’t offer Algebra 1 to students. This is where the virtual dual enrollment comes into play. You don’t have to have that teacher on campus and you can still offer these courses to students,” said Ayers.

Under the Digital Learning Act, all high schoolers in Florida are required to complete at least one virtual course before graduation. The advantage for archdiocesan students is that the courses offered by the Virtual Catholic School contain a core Catholic identity, whether it’s a class in theology, language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, world languages, or physical education, practical arts, and fine arts.

In fact, according to Rebeca Bautista, VCS principal, the school will soon be the first national model for online education with a Catholic curriculum.

“ADOM-VCS has the unique opportunity of providing quality education to communities across the nation and is not limited by geographical location, student body size, or available resources. I passionately believe that the virtual classroom provides an innovative learning environment that meets the needs of all students, and it upholds Catholic virtues and principles for students across the nation,” said Bautista.

That’s exactly what Catholic parents search for in their children’s education, said Ayers. “Having that continuum from Pre-K through even college, it doesn’t matter what type of student you are, you can have a Catholic education.”

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