By Tom Tolen /

Brighton Area School district parents and students who want information about enrolling their child in the new Brighton Virtual Academy which starts this fall will get answers at a special 6 p.m. online meeting this evening (Thursday).

The academy is being established as an alternative to the in-classroom program, given parents' concerns about putting their child in a classroom with the coronavirus pandemic. The purpose of the meeting is to provide information and answer questions by parents, students and other interested persons. According to Brighton Board of Education Trustee Ken Stahl, the event will also be recorded for later viewing.

Former Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Maria Gistinger, who retired from Brighton last fall after a decade of service, has been hired to set up the virtual academy. Gistinger told WHMI that hers is not a permanent position, but she will be around for the next six weeks or so to establish the program and make sure it gets off the ground successfully. Minus any alterations, the current back-to-school plan, announced by interim Superintendent Laura Surrey in July, involves four days of in-class instruction for the first semester. They are to take place on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, with Wednesdays reserved for at-home, online learning. Under the plan, the first week of school is to consist of half-days only. The Brighton Virtual Academy is being offered as an option for parents who don't feel comfortable having their kids go go school in a classroom setting. Plans and protocols for the reopening of school will be further discussed at the next regular Board of Education meeting, to take place on Aug. 10th.

Along with former Superintendent Greg Gray, Gistinger has been credited for Brighton’s turnaround from a deficit district to one solidly in the black, with a fund balance of several million dollars. Gistinger was largely responsible for Brighton instituting the Shared Services program, in which a school district provides non-core curriculum classes and staff to smaller schools, such as parochial and private schools which have limited course offerings. The host school district then gets a portion of the recipient school’s per-pupil state aid in return for providing the service.

According to Stahl, for those planning to join this evening's 6 p.m. online meeting, the Zoom Meeting ID is 943 6278 2586.