Here to stay: Virtual school a good fit for some families

Published 9:25 am Thursday, March 31, 2022

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By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

Virtual school is here to stay.

But only if you want it. And only if you qualify for it.

Born out of necessity because of the pandemic, Davie County Schools established its own virtual school, and is remodeling the “K” building at the old Davie High site for its use hopefully by the end of next school year.

This year, the school is serving some 60 students in grades 4-8 and 60 more at the high school level.

“We realized that this just works for some families … an opportunity to meet a need,” said Principal Valerie K. Feezor. “We are a collaboration with the homes. We train our parents. It’s not us alone, it’s us with the families.”

Modern technology makes the process work, as some of the older students are able to take classes through colleges or other websites. For the elementary and middle school students, most instruction is by four teachers and a part-time counselor, and by Feezor.

While the school provides a laptop, the families must provide internet service.

“What we look for is proof that the student will have support at home,” Feezor said. “Can we meet their needs? You don’t have to be a straight-A student. An online school can be harder because you’ve got to get up and turn the computer on.”

The staff sometimes visits homes to make sure virtual is the right fit for that family, and to help them learn a new way of learning.

“They don’t have a lot of the drama, a lot of the peer pressure you have in middle schools. But we encourage the parents to get them involved in something with others of the same age.”

The virtual school is doing its part, planning outings, pictures, a spirit week, spelling bee and other events found at a more traditional school. They have their own yearbook. Their mascot is the Huskies.

“We don’t want them on that Chromebook all day. We’ll say today’s going to be warm, get outside. We’re really focused on the whole child, keeping them active. All of our schools do that,” she said. “What’s cool about us is we’ve been trying to have events for the kids.”

Feezor is proud of her teachers, who do more planning than most because each one teaches at least two subjects across three grade levels.

“It’s neat to help start something new,” said the Davidson County native, who has a master’s degree in curriculum instruction from UNC-Greensboro and is studying now at Gardner-Webb University.

“We try to work with whatever works for that family, as long as the work gets done. The kids are so good. Our kids are so used to Face Timing, virtual, they’re really good at it,” Feezor said. “They really have grown.”

Parents and the students agree.

“I like that we learn the same amount of things that we would in face-to-face school, but we don’t waste time,” said Skylar Zuleger. “I like that if you have to travel, you can still attend class and complete your work. I also like that I am in my own house because it makes me feel more organized.”

Her mother, Courtney Zuleger, said the virtual school experience has been wonderful. “It is led by dedicated teachers who have created an engaging and supportive learning environment. We are grateful for the opportunity to have a consistent cirriculum that has prepared our daughter for the next year.”

“I could not be more impressed with a school than I am of Davie County Virtual,” said parent, Tammy Renegar. “The teachers are incredibly supportive to the students, offering added help when needed. The principal makes sure all parents are kept informed about school news. Parents should know that even though this is an online school, it does have structure.”

Renegar likes that students meet live daily with teachers, and can interact with one another.

“There are times set for interventions and enrichments so that every student gets what they need,” Renegar said. “There are also times set for in person meet ups so the students can socialize and have a fun time. I am proud that my family has this  opportunity to be part of such a great school.”

Another student put it this way: “The teachers will go out of their way, in their own time, to make sure that you understand. I like virtual school because students are not distracting others by passing notes, then I can focus more. You are able to understand the teachers better in virutal school because they are not telling students to settle down, which is a waste of a lof of class time.”