Virtual learning growing amid pandemic and safety concerns
STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - As virtual learning continues to expand, officials have noticed that parents’ motivation for wanting to pursue it has as well.
Suzanne Sloane has been the Head of School for Virginia Virtual Academy since 2010. At that point, there were 90 students enrolled.
This school year, they have about 5,000 students.
Sloane said every year they distribute a survey to incoming families asking why they want to engage in virtual learning.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, she said academics and athletics were the primary reasons, but since then, many answers revolved around safety and security.
“Initially, it was Covid,” she recalled. “With the advent of the most recent school shooting and the hoaxes that have started to happen on Tik Tok and social media, parents are just feeling like their kids aren’t safe in the building, and they’re feeling like there are interruptions to their day.”
She mentioned the recent events of students leaving classes to protest in the Commonwealth as an example. She said though she supports that right, it does provide a disruption to learning, which some parents are trying to combat.
“It’s also ‘I just really want my child to have some consistency. I want to know what’s going to happen from day to day,” she said.
That consistency also includes learning. Sloane reported that students who attended VAVA prior to Covid saw “the same or better” test scores following and showed no signs of learning loss during their trimester assessments.
Contrarily, they have seen some students transition back from virtual to in-person learning. Sloane says one reason is that people got used to “emergency remote learning” during the pandemic.
“It’s a rigorous curriculum; it is a full school day,” she stressed. “Some of the students got used to ‘Oh, I can [spend] an hour a day. I don’t have to have my camera on. I don’t have to take assessments. I don’t have to put forth a lot of effort.”
Sloane said that family changes are another common reason for switching from traditional to virtual learning and vice versa.
VAVA is evolving as well. They provide numerous online clubs for students to participate in. Most recently they’ve added Esports.
Sloane says they are still enrolling students and hiring teachers. To learn more, click here.
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