Originally published on WTKR.com on November 3, 2022.
During the height of the pandemic, students were introduced to virtual learning, many of them for the first time. But for other students, online learning was second nature to them.
The Virginia Virtual Academy exists to help meet the mental, emotional and physical needs of their students for personal reasons ranging from bullying to a learning disability. One family in Norfolk said it's less distracting and there's more school work being done sitting in front of a computer versus sitting in a classroom.
Alanna Blanchard has been with the academy, a public K-12 school, for a few years. Like other kids her age, she was introduced to it at the start of COVID-19, but once class was back in person, she wanted to stay in the online classroom environment.
"She's a bit of a germaphobe along with the OCD," said Blanchard's mom, Kathy. "And with ADHD, noises distract her easily and she's sensitive to certain noises."
Kathy said since going to online school, Alanna's test scores have skyrocketed.
"She went from a 'B' and 'C' student in school to National Junior Honor Roll Society," Kathy said.
She's not the only one, either. Just like traditional public school students, the academy does state testing every year. Prior to and after the height of the pandemic, school leaders said students performed at or above state levels.
Suzanne Sloane, with the academy, said there were only 90 students and four teachers in 2010.
"Last year, we swelled all the way to 7,500 students with well over 225 employees," Sloane said.
The students at the academy have a full schedule of work and even some with virtual extracurricular activities. The academy said the teachers work at the pace of the students and work with parents.
While some students may need more attention, others are reading at a high school level and earning credits. But the Blanchards and Sloane agree that one mold doesn't fit every child. For students forced to go remote, online learning didn't work.
"It's not a blame, who's fault it was," Sloane said. "It's just a matter of it happened, then it was extended and then it moved on into a full school year of students and teachers really being uncomfortable in that setting without the proper training."
For students like Alanna, it does work. Her family believes it's helped build confidence and a bright future.
To learn more about Virginia Virtual Academy, visit https://vava.k12.com/
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