When Janet Webber’s three youngest children head to school, they don’t meet up with the yellow buses rolling through their Cumming subdivision.
Instead Roni, the seventh-grader, spreads books across the kitchen table and logs onto the computer. Webber leads her other two children — a first- and third-grader — upstairs, to a sunny room with two desks, a laptop computer and bookcases filled with textbooks.
The three kids spend the next five hours or so completing lessons designed by the Georgia Virtual Academy. The online charter school started in 2007 and has quietly become one of the largest public schools in the state. It teaches about 4,400 elementary and middle school students from 163 of the state’s 180 school districts.
Internet-based schools have popped up across the country in the past few years because of improved technology and changing education laws. As of January, there were 173 virtual charter schools teaching about 92,000 students in 18 states, according to the North American Council for Online Learning.
Nationally, little research has been done on the effectiveness of such online schools. They’re just too new.
But Roni, 12, has no doubts about her school.
“I do everything else on the computer, so why not go to school that way?” she said.
For the Webber children, the computer is their classroom.