Virtual School Offers Alternative To Traditional Education

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
The California Virtual Academies or CAVA is holding its Sacramento grand opening, but the event isn’t taking place at a school, because there is no school.  Instead it’s being held at the Railroad Musuem in Old Town Sacramento: 
Okay, we’re going to go ahead and get started…We’re really excited to offer a school for the Sacramento area….
Katrina Outfleet, Academic Adminstrator, welcomes a crowd of about 50 parents and children.  Officials are hoping to recruit about 200 students in the Sacramento Region.
CAVA is an innovative option within the public education system.
Lisa Gillis, is an administrator with CAVA, an on-line, non-classroom based charter school.
About 40 states have charter schools, and a handful, including California, have on-line charter schools.   
The students wake up every day, they go into the online school, they get their assignments….they have these wonderful interactive lessons, where there’s flash media, and it engages the students and makes it really fun for them.           
CAVA provides students with a computer, on-line access, textbooks and learning materials.  All of this is free because CAVA gets its money the same way any public school does, with state funding based on attendance.
CAVA already has an enrollment of about 35 hundred students in five other schools, most located in the Southern California area. 
Parent Sandy Johnson, whose children attend CAVA of Sonoma County, was attracted by the on-line lessons:
I am thrilled that my kids are thoroughly techno savvy. And also have an understanding of the positive benefits that technology can have.  They’re not just doing computer games all the time or connecting with friends and goofing around, they’re actually using it to promote their education.
Johnson’s nine year old son Jacob is also happy going to school the CAVA way:
They make learning, they make it so you do it in a fun way, instead of just sitting there, listening to your teacher and falling asleep, and say, aaaaaw, you’re sitting there and actually enjoying it.
The first site based charter schools took off in California in 1992.  Small, on-line schools began appearing in Southern California around 1995 and they have become more popular in California and other states ever since.
But John Ayres  with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers calls on-line charter schools an “interesting breed:”
The thing is, it’s not for everyone.  It’s important to remember that we are creating in the United States a differentiated, educational marketplace. People have to learn what they think would be best for their child.
Eric Premack, co-director of the non-profit Charter Schools Development Center agrees.  He says on-line schools may not work for every family:
They should take a look in depth at the instructional methods that are used and think will these appeal to my child’s learning style?  DO they require a lot of ongoing supervision throughout the day, or are they able to work very independently and how does that affect the family environment?
Because of the variety of choices out there, parents should do careful research before they enroll their child in any type of charter school.
Parents can find out more about CAVA or other charter schools through a new service provided by Standard and Poor’s called School Matters dot com. CAVA will start classes in the Sacramento area in September.  So far, it has enrolled almost 70 students.