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Logging In


Brooke Tindal used to wake up at 5:50 a.m. She’d travel 16 miles across New York City to middle school. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Schools went remote. Brooke suddenly had more time. At home, she could focus on projects for her favorite art class. And she felt less tired during the day.

Brooke didn’t return to the classroom when New York City ended remote schooling in 2021. She chose a year of homeschooling instead. Then her mom learned about another option. New York was starting its first public virtual high school. Brooke enrolled in its first freshman class.

Now Brooke is 15, a sophomore. “It’s great for me to just stay in one place and do my work at my own pace,” she says.

Back to School

After the pandemic, virtual schooling was still a must for many kids. “A lot of students [were] immunocompromised immunocompromised having a weakened immune system (adjective) People who are immunocompromised are more likely to get sick from the virus. , or their families were. They could not return to the building,” Terri Grey says. Grey is the principal of Brooke’s school. It’s called Virtual Innovators Academy (VIA).

About 200 freshmen and sophomores are enrolled at the academy this school year. Another grade level will be added each year. Students meet in person for state exams. Once a month, they get together to do something fun. But even extracurricular classes, like esports and flying drones, are done at home.


Administrators nationwide cite reasons that students might prefer virtual classes. Some kids concentrate better with a later school start time. Some want to be able to go to a museum during off-peak hours. Some juggle jobs and coursework.

“A lot of parents appreciate the flexibility,” Grey says. “There are students who really thrive learning at home remotely.”

Home Advantage

There are critics. Some are skeptical about whether virtual school can foster group discussions. Others say it could create an equity equity justice; fairness (noun) The 1963 March on Washington demanded racial equity in the United States. issue, as some kids can’t afford or don’t have access to the newest technology. (See “Closing the Gap.”) Still, school districts in California, Georgia, Utah, and elsewhere have launched permanent virtual schools.

The attendance rate at VIA is 96%. Grey says it has become a haven for kids who are neurodiverse or introverted. Its focus on media and tech could help students land internships managing companies’ social-media platforms.

Rebecca Minerd is the principal of a K–8 virtual school in Coweta County, Georgia. She says parents like seeing what their kids are learning. They can help them with homework. “The majority of students are just typical kids, and their parents have made this choice,” Minerd says. “It works well for them.”

Closing the Gap


Students who attend virtual schools depend on fast Internet. But many rural places don’t have the underground cables for it. Around 24% of people in rural areas lack high-speed Internet. That’s compared with 1.7% in cities.

The federal government is addressing the problem. It has invested billions of dollars. If the effort pays off, rural areas could improve their economies. And it could mean more educational opportunity. —By Cristina Fernandez