In a class of their own

Students enjoy attending online school

 

By Raymond L. Daye
 
Imagine a school with no bullies. Imagine a school where a student literally has 24-hour access to the classroom. Imagine a school that provides numerous recreational and educational field trips.
 
If you want directions on where to find this school, here they are:
1. Get up from the kitchen table.
2. Walk outside the front door.
3. Turn around.
4. You’re there.
 
The school described can be found in any home with a computer. In fact, there are two Louisiana public charter schools sitting on the your computer desk at home: Louisiana Connections Academy (LACA) and Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy (LAVCA).
 
KAYLA'S STORY
Adolescence is a difficult time under the best of circumstances. Bullying makes those times even harder.
 
Kayla Cole, 12, of Fifth Ward was having some difficulties at her public school.
 
“It wasn’t physical bullying,” she said. “It was like sometimes the girls would talk to me and sometimes they would totally ignore me.”
 
Her mother, Shawntelle, had a friend whose daughter had enrolled in a virtual school. 
“It sounded like something we would be interested in,” Shawntelle said. “She was being bullied, and I did not want it to continue. We looked into the virtual school and it has worked out.”
 
Kayla is in 7th grade. At first, she was not thrilled by the prospect of going to school at home because she thought she would miss out on interacting with her friends.
 
“Now, she wants to continue with the school,” Shawntelle said. “I hope she stays with it and graduates from Connections.”
 
Kayla said the “best thing” about LACA is that “I still get to interact with people, but it’s not overwhelming. I’m not pressured. Also, you can contact the teacher any time and it’s more one-to-one than I had at school.”
 
She said the “worst thing” about a virtual school is, “I would have to say I really don’t know.”
 
Shawntelle said that “everything has been positive. There are tutors. She can contact the teacher any time. She has access to resources that were not available in the public school.”
 
Kayla goes on all of the school-sponsored field trips. She said the trips are voluntary, but she goes and enjoys them.
 
So far this year students have gone to a bowling alley for a recreational outing, gone to Gone Wild Safari in Tioga, Kent House in Alexandria, the Baton Rouge Zoo and Anderson Farms in Leesville.
 
She said the public school provided field trips, “but we get to go to more places, and go farther out, than we did in school.”
 
Kayla said some boys and girls she knew in school are now enrolled in a virtual school. She still has friendships with friends from the public school, but she has also met new friends through the field trips.
 
One thing she finds helpful is the ability to either attend the live classroom session “when the teacher is online with us,” or to listen to the recorded classroom session at a later time.
 
“The teacher has a message board where she posts study guides to help us with the lesson at home,” Kayla said. “If you miss the live session, or you didn’t understand something, you can go back and listen to it more carefully in the recorded session.”
 
Another positive is that there are no classroom distractions. There is no friend whispering to you in one ear while the teacher is lecturing. There’s nobody pulling your hair or popping you in the back of the head when the teacher’s back is turned. There’s no “know-it-all” who monopolizes the class time by showing off how much he knows about the subject matter.
 
“The teacher can allow students to ‘chat’ by texts during the class, for classroom discussion,” Kayla said, “but if it becomes a distraction or someone is texting too much, she can turn it off.”
 
NATALIE'S STORY
Natalie Dauzat is younger than Kayla, but is a virtual school veteran.
 
Natalie, 8, of Belledeau, is in her second year in the LAVCA program.
 
Her mother, also named Kayla, said Natalie went to elementary school for the first semester of kindergarten, but was home-schooled for the second semester.
 
“A friend told me about the online school and I enrolled her in 1st grade,” she said. “It is going very well.”
 
Kayla said her daughter would get bored with the kindergarten lessons in school and under the traditional home school instruction.
 
“That is not a problem now," she said. "The school is very flexible. If she finishes something early, she can move ahead.”
 
Natalie said her time in the online class “is my most favorite thing to do. I love it. I do it for four to six hours a day.”
 
She still plays with neighborhood friends, goes to dance class, has recently joined Heritage Girls and “has, literally, 40 cousins to play with,” Kayla said with a laugh. “She interacts with other kids every day.”
 
Natalie said she has also made new friends through LAVCA.
 
The school sponsors a field trip every month. Natalie has gone on a few, but not all.
 
“Some are too far away, like to Natchitoches,” she said.
 
Natalie said she has gone on a field trip to the Alexandria zoo, plantation houses and a museum in Alexandria.
 
She said she wants to stay in the virtual school and does not think she wants to go to a traditional school.
 
Natalie said the “best thing” about LAVCA is “we learn more.” The “worst thing,” she said, is “Mainly, nothing.”

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