Virtual charter an option when one-size school doesn’t fit all – Nathan Currie

Why would students choose to go to school online?

As a superintendent of a tuition-free virtual public charter school, this question comes up a lot. Why would children choose to go to school online?

For so long, students have had one option – their local brick-and-mortar school – but schools of thought around education have evolved to understand that learning is not one size fits all, and while traditional school might be a great fit for some students, others learn better in a different environment.

Take for instance Madison Kimrey, a high school student at North Carolina Connections Academy. Previously homeschooled, Madison was seeking an education option with diverse courses and the support of teachers. Her research led her to North Carolina Connections Academy where she found that the course catalog provided a range of core courses and unique electives, and fulfilled requirements for colleges she plans on applying to.

Madison is a writer, activist, thespian, and public speaker with a focus on voting rights and young people's involvement in the political process. Her busy schedule was not conducive to the traditional school day. Madison benefits from the flexibility of online school and the ability to access her assignments and communicate with teachers when it’s convenient for her.

Pursuing passion

Another student exceling in online school is Clark Eselgroth, a North Carolina Connections Academy student and ballet dancer with the International Ballet Academy in Cary. The 14-year-old came to online school in the 2015-16 school year seeking a more flexible schedule to pursue his passion for ballet without sacrificing a high-quality education. It takes an enormous amount of dedication, independence and determination to diligently pursue ballet aspirations and maintain exceptional academics, but Clark has done just that.

Now a ninth grader, Clark has excelled both academically and personally, building great relationships with his teachers, earning high marks in all his classes, and polishing his skills as a dancer and performer. His pas deux partner is also a North Carolina Connections Academy student.

So again the question – why would students choose online school?

Virtual school can also be ideal for students who have a hard time succeeding in a traditional school environment.

Student Ethan Detroy was diagnosed with ADD as a first grader, and struggled with school for several years due to his inability to focus. Since enrolling in North Carolina Connections Academy, Ethan’s mom is thrilled with the confidence he’s gained in this new environment now that they have found a good fit for his learning needs. As a seventh grader, he's now taking responsibility for his grades and is much more independent.

Online school can be a great fit for many types of students including children who are ahead or behind in the classroom, those who want more individualized instruction, or in the case of Madison and Clark, students that benefit from a flexible school schedule. One of our duties as educators is to help students find the learning path that best suits their needs and cultivates their growth.

Just as traditional brick-and-mortar school is not a fit for all students, online school isn’t a fit for all students either, but it is a great fit for some.

Nathan Currie is the superintendent of the Durham-based North Carolina Connections Academy.