Columbia County’s new virtual academy will last after pandemic ends

Published: Dec. 7, 2020 at 11:22 PM EST
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EVANS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - If your student is thriving learning from home, one school district is offering a learning option that’ll stick around even long after the pandemic is over.

Columbia County leaders met Monday night to talk about their new virtual academy that is set to open to all types of learners next fall.

When students were thrown into online school, some suffered and others thrived.

“This virtual thing has actually been a life-saver for him because he gets the education from his teacher, but he also gets that one-on-one attention with me,” Columbia County mom Patricia Sonnier said.

The online academy is open to sixth- through 12th-graders. It’s a little bad news for Sonnier’s second-grader, but she’s keeping the option open for her older daughter.

The district emphasizes teachers for the academy will be handpicked for the job, unlike many educators currently teaching virtually.

“The teachers will be geared to work in a virtual setting. And it’s not like now where we’re asking people to do learn from home that may not be totally suited for that,” said Dr. Jeff Carney, Columbia County schools associate superintendent.

Sonnier, who raves about her child’s virtual teacher, says she’s seen that type of expertise in action.

“To do this day, I don’t know how she does it, but it is amazing. And when it’s done right, it’s done amazing. And I know there are amazing educators out there who are built for this,” she said.

But the district wants to emphasize that the academy isn’t for everyone.

“CVA is no joke. It’s going to be rigorous,” Carney said. “This is not to be taken light-hearted.”

Students must fit into six categories to use the academy, and a counselor at their zoned school has to agree it’s a good fit.

Some parents think better planned online courses with better suited staff could be a game-changer.

“I can’t see it going any worse, I can only see it getting better,” Sonnier said.

Registration begins Tuesday. But again, the district says you need to talk with a counselor with your zoned school before you fill out those forms.

They say enrolling in the virtual academy is a semester-long commitment.

For more information, including courses offered, student eligibility and a profile of a successful virtual learning student, visit

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