National School Choice Week showcases the various options in Georgia

On Thursday about 50 students who attend the virtual Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA) toured the Bradley Observatory at Agnes Scott College in Decatur.

But this was no ordinary field trip. Temperatures were in the 40s, and students wore large yellow scarves with “National School Choice Week” inscribed upon them. GCA officials planned Thursday’s trip to Decatur as a way to celebrate educational choice policies.

At the observatory, students learned how the planets in our solar system align with the sun. The parents who accompanied them explained how Georgia Cyber Academy, a public charter school that serves kindergartners through 12th-graders, is a better alternative to a traditional brick and mortar public school and aligns with their values. 

Among the parents was Latisha Longino, whose 12-year-old son Solomon attends GCA’s sixth grade. Longino said she and her family are Christians. The other GCA students, she went on to say, won’t influence her son to participate in drugs or sex as a brick-and-mortar public school might. 

“At first, I enrolled my son because of the pandemic. I did not want my child to attend public school because I did not want him to get sick,” Latisha Longino said. 

“Now [I keep him there] because of the curriculum and because of the resources that they provide.”

The school, for example, teaches Solomon discipline and how to control his emotions.

“From the very beginning, Solomon has shown me how independent he is and how self-reliant he is,” Latisha Longino said. 

“I never would have seen that if it wasn’t for him being enrolled in the school program. I am thankful and have nothing but praises for the school. I hope for him to be here until high school.” 

GCA spokeswoman Tonette Price said the school, which, again, is public and does not charge tuition, serves students in almost all of Georgia’s 159 counties. GCA started in 2007 and currently has about 9,000 students, she said.

“We were a virtual school before virtual became cool,” Price said.

“Everything that a brick-and-mortar student would get, our students get. This is the same funding that a public school would get.”

GCA student Jakhi Walker, who is 10 and enrolled in the fourth grade, said his virtual GCA homeroom class begins at 8 a.m. Math, science, English Language Arts and social studies courses take up the rest of the day. And on Wednesdays, he takes art and physical education (PE).

How does he take PE if he’s learning virtually?

“They do a physical and a little workout. They show us videos of how to exercise,” Jakhi said.

“And you can do the exercises as long as you have enough space [where you are].”

Whatever the subject, Price said every child learns differently.

“Even if you have four different kids, if they learn differently then find the best space for them. Do it in the way that makes the most sense for that child,” Price said.

“Never put everybody in the same thing because it is the easiest thing. Do the best thing for your child.”

Any student, Price said, can apply to GCA, but the school does cap the number of students per grade.

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