Alternatives to the traditional public school classroom are nothing new.
Private schools, religious schools, home schooling have all been around for decades.
But technology now allows students to be a part of the public school system without ever having to step foot in a traditional school building.
Alexis and Brittany Wheeler are sisters from Murrells Inlet who attended Waccamaw High School last year but are now part of Provost Academy South Carolina, a virtual public charter school for grades 9-12 that serves about 1,000 students in the state.
The academy, which is free for students who live in South Carolina, offers students “the choice of a quality online learning experience that is engaging, personalized and flexible,” information from the school states.
Students earn a regular high school diploma recognized by colleges and employers. Because they take classes online, students can attend school anytime, day or night. And they can log onto the school from anywhere there is an Internet connection.
Brittany, 14, likes using her iPhone to connect to the classroom while Alexis, 17, prefers a laptop.
Their mother, Janet Wheeler, said she began searching for an alternative to the traditional public school system after “an unfortunate incident” involving her younger daughter at Waccamaw High.
She did not want to elaborate on the incident that caused her to remove her daughters from the school.
“We did this because it is better for our family,” she said.
Brittany and Alexis — who graduates this year — said they are both benefiting from the Provost experience.
Alexis said before joining Provost, she would get up at 6 a.m. each day, spend an hour on a bus then seven hours behind a desk.
“This gives us a lot more time to do the things we want to do,” the high school senior said.
She said because of the flexibility, they have taken classes in unique places such as while they were traveling to Florida.
Alexis also said Provost gives students the opportunity to take many more honors classes than traditional schools. For example, she said at Waccamaw she could take two foreign languages while now she is taking multiple. Brittany is taking Latin, French and Slavic. She said she hopes the knowledge of the languages helps her in a career in the FBI or the CIA, which is what she is hoping to pursue.
Janet Wheeler said another advantage to the virtual school is students “are not judged on how they look” and there is no peer pressure. She also said there are times when students who excel in a traditional classroom are at a disadvantage because teachers have to spend time working with students who are behind.
Students of Provost have the option of taking classes as they are being presented or at a later time. A phone number is provided for students to ask questions of the teachers.
Alexis — who hopes to pursue a career in psychology — said Provost students do not miss out on things such as proms or sports. In fact, both sisters attended a prom at Waccamaw this past year.
Janet Wheeler said her 11-year-old son is also a virtual school student. He is part of S.C. Connections Academy that served about 4,200 K-12 students statewide last year.
To learn more about Provost Academy, visit sc.provostacademy.com.
By Scott Harper
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