COOLIDGE — When Tiffani Chavira decided to enroll her son into online school, it was because she had enough of him returning home in tears.
“We have really lost confidence in brick and mortar (schools),” she said.
The two primary reasons that propelled Chavira to consider online schooling as opposed to enrolling her son into a traditional school system were what she believes is a growing concern regarding school safety and the struggles she experienced to get her child the support he needed.
Vincent Chavira, 9, is enrolled as a fourth grader in the online charter school known as Arizona Virtual Academy. Although he had been enrolled in AZVA as a first grader, Chavira decided to take her son out of the program and put him into a traditional school setting the following year.
“Everybody loved him, and there were no behavioral issues or anything like that,” she said. “People would try to help him, even other students would try to help him, but he just wasn’t connecting.”
Vincent suffers from a developmental delay, which requires him to have an individualized educational program and attend speech therapy.
Throughout the course of that school year, Chavira said she attempted to set up IEP meetings with teachers on several occasions.
Meanwhile, Vincent struggled to keep up with instruction and started falling behind in school. It wasn’t until the end of the year when he finally got his IEP.
“He went the entire second grade year basically doing nothing,” Chavira said. “And it was horrible. He would come home in tears, he hated school — it was just miserable for him.”
The problem was then compounded by the end-of-the-year testing, which Chavira said prompted her to place her son back into AZVA.
AZVA offers direct instruction, allowing students to have more one-on-one time with an instructor in light of the smaller class sizes. The additional attention proved to be just what Vincent needed.
By the end of his third grade year, he went from being able to read five to seven words to being able to successfully read books near his grade level. Unlike many children in his age group, Vincent now gets excited about school. He even has a favorite subject, which he said is writing.
“I don’t really do the writing, mom does the (typing), but I do the thinking,” he said.
Typing, however, will be one of the skills he will be learning this year. By the end of the year, Chavira anticipates that Vincent will likely be doing most of the typing on his own.
“He has just really blossomed,” she said. “It’s just been a really positive experience.”
However, Vincent is far from the first child in the Chavira family to use online schooling as an alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar schools.
All of Chavira’s school-age children are enrolled in some kind of online education program, which includes her youngest daughter who just started kindergarten.
The decision to move to online schooling was actually one the family took years ago when Chavira began to notice that her kids were struggling in the traditional school system. The problem, she said, extended beyond just academics.
“My kids weren’t being bullied, but they would see a lot of things that really bothered them,” she said. “And that really bothered me.”
In addition, AZVA also provides enrolled students with all of the materials they need to be successful, including computers, books and materials, and even a stipend to help with internet access.
For Chavira, who moved to Coolidge with her family last July shortly after purchasing their first home, the additional support has made a world of difference to her family.
The virtual school also provides students with exposure to subjects that have gotten pulled in many brick and mortar schools in light of time and budget constraints, such as art. Students can also participate in clubs through the school as well.
“They (AZVA) really try to find every aspect of what we need as a family and try to meet the need,” Chavira said.