Last school year was not a good one for Noah Geogerian.
As a student enrolled in Marietta City Schools, Geogerian, 14, struggled with his grades, had difficulty focusing on his school work and got himself into a lot of trouble at school.
His parents, Daniel and Emily Geogerian, decided to enroll him in the Ohio Virtual Academy, an online school, for the first time this school year, and so far, things are going well.
ASHLEY HILL The Marietta Times
Noah Geogerian logs on to the Ohio Virtual Academy from a computer at his Marietta home. This is the first school year Noah has been enrolled in the online school, and his mother, Emily Geogerian, said it’s working out well.
"He's a really bright kid but just gets distracted easily, and so the home environment ... it's just different from his peer setting where he's distracted and wanting to make poor choices and say things to make people laugh, so it's been a good fit for him this year," Emily Geogerian said.
Noah's not alone. According to data from the Ohio Department of Education, as of June 2010, there were almost 30,000 Ohio students enrolled in e-schools full-time.
During the 2009-10 school year, there were 27 e-schools in operation in Ohio, seven of which have statewide enrollment and the remainder of which limit enrollment to their district or region.
By the numbers:
There were 27 e-schools in operation in Ohio during the 2009-10 school year.
As of June 2010, the number of students enrolled full-time in e-schools was approximately 29,269.
Source: Ohio Department of Education.
Along with Noah, who is currently in the eighth grade, his sister, Brianna, 15, a sophomore, is enrolled in the Ohio Virtual Academy for the first time this school year.
Emily Geogerian said this is a choice Brianna made when she learned her brother would be enrolled in the school.
"She felt a little bit like a lot of the kids in her high school classes weren't really wanting to learn, and she's one of those odd kids who really wants to learn and get ahead so she can get into a good college," Emily explained.
Although Brianna is doing well in her classes, Emily said online school is "not a perfect fit" for her daughter and she's not sure that she'll continue with it next school year.
"Honestly, I'm hoping that she will, but also take classes at Washington State (Community College) - the dual enrollment," she said. "She definitely would much rather be with her peers, and Noah would, too, but it's not really an option for him."
A lack of peer contact is one disadvantage of online school cited by the Ohio Department of Education, as well as a lack of group activities.
Department spokesman Patrick Gallaway said some students who are enrolled in online school may struggle with having enough self-discipline to keep up with the work, but pointed out that online schools have monitoring and intervention strategies for students who appear to fall behind.
"An advantage is that students can work from home, at a personal pace that might not be met as effectively by a site-based school, for whatever reason," said Gallaway. "Some parents want to home school their children, and online schools provide a comprehensive curriculum, taught by licensed teachers; so the online school is the best of both worlds for these parents."
He added that online school also gives students scheduling flexibility, which is good if, for instance, they have a job. Additionally, he said some students feel insecure in their neighborhood school and are more successful in an online setting.
Gallaway noted that the state does not authorize or sponsor online schools and there are no conditions a family has to meet in order to enroll a child in online school, other than living in the enrollment area.
"Other organizations, like school districts, educational service centers and state-approved, federal nonprofit entities approve (online) schools," he explained.
Emily Geogerian said another advantage is that she doesn't pay a dime for her kids to be enrolled in the Ohio Virtual Academy. The academy provides computers for both the children to use at no cost, their books are free and it even helps cover the cost of Internet service.
She also likes that if the children participate in educational activities, such as taking piano lessons or gardening, it counts toward the 920 hours they are required to have for the school year.
"A certain amount of that can be supplemental learning, which I appreciate," she said.