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'Smart To Give An Option Like That': More Districts Adding Virtual Academies This Fall, Ditching Distance Learning

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - At-home learning for the long haul? More districts are offering virtual academies starting in the fall and ditching distance learning.

For the last year, Corrie Trainor taught in an office with her students on-screen.

"The students know this is our classroom now," Trainor said.

Her hub, Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District, is back in person. But Trainor still educates online as part of the district's virtual academy. Dry Creek added it in lieu of distance learning this year.

"Different opportunity or different access, some kids need that," Trainor said. "It's always about the students, always about what's best for them."

What's best for some, isn't best for all.

"He's able to get his homework done right away and not have to wait," said John Ochoa of his son, who chose to continue distance learning after many of his classmates returned to campus.

"For him – it was not an issue," Ochoa said, though his son plans to go back in person in the fall.

These stories are what's driving districts to add more virtual options to their offerings.

"I do see that it will become more necessary for districts to explore that in the future," said Sara Wegner, the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services at Dry Creek.

Natomas Unified is among the other districts debuting their own virtual version of school this fall.

"People have experienced what it's like to work from home – and what it's like to learn from home," said Deidra Powell, a spokesperson for the Natomas Unified School District.

With added technology and others wanting the extra option, Davis and Washington Unified are doing the same. Some parents seem to be supportive.

"I would think a district would be smart to give an option like that to students," said Ochoa.

In some ways, the pandemic has created permanent change in schools - teachers doing their best to be hands-on, even online.

"I get the majority of kids engaged in learning every single day," said Trainor.

Some districts, like Elk Grove Unified, already have a virtual academy option. But each school offering, and how they operate, differs per district.

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