Originally published in The Blade.
Lydia Napier’s school might not be right for everyone, but it has real advantages for her.
The 16-year-old cellist and prep cook attends the Ohio Virtual Academy. That gives her time to practice, and an unusually flexible schedule. Classes take place live online, she said, but she can sometimes miss one and watch the whole thing later. And yet, she said, classes offer interaction, by voice and text chat. “You still have to have relationships with your teachers and other students.”
The school’s flexibility helps Miss Napier make time for other parts of her life — and of her life plans: cooking, where she wants to build her career, and music, in which she also plans to remain active. For example, if she needs to travel for a performance, she said, “it won’t be that big of a deal.” And she’s able to work at Manhattan’s in downtown Toledo.
So should we close all the school buildings and send everyone to online classes? Of course not. Not every teenager would benefit from that flexibility; some might never get schoolwork done. And while Miss Napier performs in a youth orchestra, not reporting to classrooms every day might leave some students socially isolated.
It is precisely because students are different that they need different schools. When there are diverse schools to choose from, students can attend institutions that meet their distinctive needs. And schools don’t have to be good for everyone, only for the students they enroll.