Fairfax Academy for Communications and the Arts, the academy program within Fairfax High School (FHS) administrator Andrea Cook presented her annual update to the City of Fairfax School Board. Academy dance instructor Meredith Barnes joined Cook to discuss the challenges of teaching performing arts through virtual instruction.
The Fairfax Academy is a program dedicated to advanced courses in performing arts, languages, photography, television production and social media marketing. With over 1000 students from all high schools throughout the county, the Academy focuses on advanced curriculum in their chosen area. This year, the Academy has expanded its ability to support English learning students and special education students.
The Academy introduced American Sign Language this year to its course offerings, with plans to have ASL 2 next year. The popular program has five full sections this year.
The Academy has been able to have some courses in person this year, however they have now gone back to all virtual instruction. Cook and Barnes acknowledges the challenges of teaching some of the courses virtually.
“Teaching concurrently is a new way of teaching, especially with the performing arts. We are all trying to figure this out,” said Barnes. Cook praised her staff for their enthusiasm, creativity and perseverance teaching students concurrently. They have received praise from parents and students who are still able to connect with their peers and courses, even though they are doing it virtually.
“I can say that your dance studio (both online and in-person) is my safe place,” said one student in an email to dance teacher Barnes.
“A lot of our teachers are making special homes for our students, even if it is virtual,” said Cook.
Looking ahead, Cook emphasized the growth of the American Sign Language courses, expanding services to English language learners and special education students, and looking to partner with local businesses.
To learn more about Fairfax Academy, please go to their website.