Could Public Schools Move to 100% Online?

With internet technology available in so many areas of the country, communities are exploring how this can serve them. Public schools have already tapped into these tools with school websites, and snow days have turned into work-from-home days. Local school districts have felt the pressure from cyber schools and now maintain their own cyber classes online. Students who live in the school district can choose to do part of their schooling from home. As this technology expands, how will schools respond? Could they go online to the fullest extent and become 100% cyber? How would this work for families?

A Quick Look at Cyber Schools

Cyber schools are charter schools that have partial access to the school tax dollars of the families they serve. They offer a curriculum that meets all requirements for graduation with a high school diploma. They’ve been around long enough that experienced families can provide insight concerning their success. This experience shows that while cyber schools have much to offer, they have some shortcomings that public schools should learn from. These include amenities like sports and music groups. The support from cyber school families looks different from that of families attending public schools. Parents need to provide intensive support, and this often includes being personally available at home with their students.

Online Public School: The Easy Part

Many courses readily adapt to online instruction. These include history, English, mathematics, and some sciences. These are many of the core courses required for graduation. The difficulty arises when a student studies Chemistry and needs to do lab work. Some schools have addressed this with virtual labs online. This lacks the direct personal experience that can inspire young scientists. As a result, some schools provide plans for safe home chemistry experiments.

Snow days and sick days could be reduced to a fraction of their present level. Students can engage with each other online, and specialized in-school days will meet the need to build new experiences and expand on virtual or cyber school courses.

Online Public School: The Hard Part

Those aspects of a school that might not translate well to an online curriculum include physical activities like sports, band practice, art, and physical education. Many cyber students participate in private karate classes, soccer, etc. These fit the need for growing bodies to move and learn. The football culture we have built up around our schools would face a transformation that many loyal families would be reluctant to undertake. Specialized school days would meet these needs.

The Impact On Families

Families with both parents working out of the home would be deeply affected by the needs of students who suddenly found themselves home alone with a computer. Younger students need individual guidance. Older students need supervision as they interact safely with the internet. Families would need to build their initiative to shoulder greater responsibility for daily learning. The upside of this is that students will encounter fewer sick days, eat something other than cafeteria food, and have the opportunity to meet personal learning needs better.
Online schooling faces criticisms that arise from cultural expectations. These could be overcome. Some changes have already begun. Others require continued planning. Since public education enjoys community support, online opportunities will become a regular choice for families.

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