Back when I was a kid, the first day of school meant a crisp white shirt, pressed pants, and an apple for teacher. Walking into the classroom, I could see the big blackboard and a few pieces of chalk.
There were plenty of small desks and one bigger workspace for the teacher. Today's children will have a very different memory of their first day at school because some of them don't even have to get out of bed! In August, BESE approved Louisiana Connections Academy, the state's first virtual school.
Today's students are accustomed to communicating and learning information through technology. Gone are the days when students turned to thick books or written letters for information. Text messages, e-mails, instant messages, websites, and social media are the new methods for gathering information. Encyclopedias are considered antiquated. Broadband and modern technologies are the present and future of education.
Thanks to the incredible power of broadband, students can plug in and get connected to the classroom virtually anywhere in the world. Through internet access, students can literally go to school and learn their lessons while at home in their pajamas. Although students rely heavily on broadband and computer access, some of their curriculum does require traditional textbooks and reading materials.
Caroline Wood, principal of Louisiana Connections Academy, explains that while virtual students may complete their lessons in the privacy of their own home, their local coffee shop, or even the library, they will still have plenty of opportunities to connect with other students. The virtual school uses field trips and other gatherings to give students the social aspect that comes with attending a more traditional school.
While many of the students attending Louisiana Connections Academy do their work from home, the new virtual school is not considered homeschooling. Because of this, virtual schools do not meet all of the qualifications set by the state to make them eligible at LHSAA member schools. And for this reason, these students are not eligible to compete in LHSAA-sanctioned athletic events. The issue has drawn some interesting debate on both sides. In an extreme example, few would find it fair for a virtual school student to take "classes" on the computer at night while spending 8 hours a day honing athletic skills outside the classroom, then being allowed to compete for state championships against full-time, in-school students.
Ultimately, the decision to not allow virtual school students to compete against traditional students comes down to a legislative prohibition based on an overwhelming desire of a majority of school administrators who have done their very best to ensure a level playing field for all student-athletes in our state.
Kenny Henderson is the Executive Director of the LHSAA.