For many students, back-to-school involves being assigned a locker and a homeroom.
For Ohio Virtual Academy students, this time of year they will be video chatting and messaging teachers through their computers about their new classes.
OHVA Lead Middle School teacher Lisa Jordan said OHVA is not traditional “home schooling.”
“Although this is at home, it’s not home school,” Jordan said. “This is a public school.”
The tuition-free school bases its education from kindergarten through 12th grade on a national, one-on-one approach to education. Also, OHVA gets its standards from state program Study Island Online Learning Solutions.
“By combining all that along with our great teachers, we have the opportunity to move kids,” Jordan said.
Jordan said virtual school is similar to traditional school.
Describing back-to-school as “Christmas,” Jordan said students were excited to open up their new school supplies that were mailed to their homes. While school starts at the same time as most other schools, Jordan said younger students were allowed into the program 14 days earlier.
She also said the school prides itself as being an alternative to the traditional school setting witj enrollment is open to all students.
“Some people just come here because they want to be more in touch with their teachers,” Jordan said. “We have every type of student.”
However, there are some families that may prefer OHVA over other school settings.
“People will come here because they are not being challenged,” Jordan said.
She said some families chose OHVA because of the attention the student will receive from a teacher cannot be matched in a traditional setting.
“We offer a really individualized education,” Jordan said. “We make sure to meet every student where they’re at and move them forward.”
Misty Siefker said she has her son, Aedyn, 9, enrolled in third grade at OHVA.
“He loves it,” Siefker said.
Diagnosed with a learning disability, Siefker said Aedyn absorbs material better in the one-on-one meetings between teachers and students.
“In regular school he was getting picked on,” Siefker said. “Now, I don’t have to worry about that.”
Siefker said she intends to enroll her two younger sons, Kanyn, 3, and Kaisyn, 2, in OHVA in the future, as well.
OHVA caters to all students, including those who have been unsuccessful in traditional school setting.
Rue Wolfe, 15, is a ninth-grader entering his first year at OHVA.
“It’s cool,” Rue said. “You can chose when you want to go to class, rather than at a regular time.”
Rue said his classes were all on the computer, including chat and video with his teachers.
“The teacher actually talks to you and helps you through it if you’re falling behind,” Rue said.
Rue said he never received this kind of attention at his previous schools, which he said he was no longer able to attend.
Rue’s father, George Wolfe, 41, said Rue was being bullied when he was in St. Marys Middle School. In addition, he claims the school would not allow Rue on school premises after hours.
“There is less of a care factor,” Wolfe said about traditional school systems. “They wouldn’t let him stay 15 minutes after school for us to come pick him up.”
While teachers may have daily interaction with their students, they are not necessarily close to home.
OHVA teachers have students from across the state. As a teacher in Wapakoneta, Jordan said she might have students who live in Toledo, Columbus or another region. If students are interested in meeting their teachers, they know where the teacher will be becasue they have regular meetings and outings.
Otherwise, all students are encourage to attend any of the OHVA outings throughout the state.
Teachers are responsible for planning outings throughout the year. Last year there were as many as 800 field trips planned.
Jordan said the outing she planned last year was to Panera Bread, where 30 students met together to socialize and ask questions.
That was a relatively small outing, and there are a few field trips where more than 300 students will attend, such as museum or zoo trips.
“Families have tons of stuff to choose from,” Jordan said.
The most recent event was the afternoon picnic which was held in many locations throughout Ohio as part of start of the OHVA school year. In Wapakoneta, the OHVA chose to hold the picnic at Veterans Memorial Park.
“We’re celebrating back to school,” Jordan said.
Jordan said the picnic is an opportunity for students, families and teachers to interact with each other.
“Mostly it’s about families getting to see each other face to face,” Jordan said.
At the start of the picnic there were ice-breaker activities for students, but Jordan said she likes to leave time for students to play and get to know each other.
“Some of these kids are the most social kids I’ve ever met,” Jordan said.
Meanwhile, the picnic gave parents the opportunity to speak to each other and ask teachers questions.
“It’s a nice way for veteran families to meet newer families and help ease them into the program,” Jordan said.
Jordan said she has been coming to the same picnic in Wapakoneta for three years, and she enjoys seeing familiar faces.
She said she creates relationships with many of her students. Jordan said one of her students from Lancaster, Ohio, always visits her while they are on their way to their grandparents’ house in Fort Wayne, Ind. Jordan said she enjoys that kind of interaction.
Jordan said she hopes more families will consider OHVA as an education option.