AKRON, Ohio - Across Ohio an estimated 40,000 students attended online public last year. This year an Akron-area family decided to enroll their son online as he enters high school.
David and Michelle Hescht strongly considered taking their son Jaden out of public school last school year, but let him finish eighth grade. They opted to reconsider this year as he would have headed to the neighborhood high school.
"We wondered, is this really the best choice?" Michelle Hescht said. "We didn't want it to be a decision that 10 years from now he says,'You ruined my life by doing this'."
They chose Ohio Virtual Academy. Jaden is provided with a computer and printer. He will communicate with his teachers online and via webcam. There is no cost to the Heschts for the online school.
"I'm pretty excited to start online school, I think it'll be cool," the 14-year-old said.
His hours logged into classes will be monitored and his parents will also act as mentors. He will have to pass Ohio's proficiency tests too.
The most common concern with students being home taking online classes seems to be the loss of interaction with friends and the lack of traditional school extracurricular activities.
"We've made a point of getting him into more activities and also ensuring that the friends he does have at the school would continue to be his friends," said David Hescht, Jaden's father.
Weighing into the decision to move him into the family dining room for his schooling was the perceived rise in violence and discipline problems in traditional schools.
The Heschts urge anyone considering a similar move to check out all options as they feel the online choice is not for everyone.
"Regular school kind of wasn't working anymore; it was time to try something new," Michelle said.
Jaden said history is one of his favorite subjects. In his virtual school, he can work ahead, at his own pace and not have to wait for the class to catch up.
If Jaden's online studies don't pan out, they can transfer him back into their area high school.
Rick Ferdig, Ph. D., Summit Professor of Learning Technologies and Professor of Instructional Technology at Kent State University, has been studying online education for 20 years. He said not all online schools provide the same level of quality in education or in student mentoring.
"What kind of interaction does the teacher have?" he asked. "Some schools, they go online, that's all the teacher interacts with them. In other cases, a teacher will provide a phone call once a week, they'll talk with the parents once a week, they'll email, they'll provide tweets."
Averil McClelland, associate professor of Cultural Foundations of Education at Kent State University, worries that as more and more families send children to online and charter schools, a social cost will be borne by all of us.
"If we allow the public schools, particularly in cities to be decimated, we're going to have poor schools," she said.
As for Jaden, a side effect to studying at home is he will no longer have snow days.
"But the good news is that if my Internet's not working or something, I get the day off," Jaden said chuckling.