Originally aired on WFVX-TV – April 24, 2020
Students and teachers in Maine are figuring out how to finish the school year online and it’s totally new territory for most — but not all.
When schools across the state began remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, friends of a Bangor teen turned to her for help. That’s because for five years, she’s been a student at Maine Virtual Academy.
“They mostly just said, ‘It’s hard to manage my own time and I forget to do things because I don’t have, like, a teacher or a school bell reprimanding me,’” said Myrah O’Roak.
“So I’ve kind of recommended I use alarms on my phone and my calendar on my phone just to keep up on what needs to be done even though you are at home and it’s not the same. You still have school and you still have responsibilities,” she said.
Her school is located in Augusta and when it opened in September 2015, it was the second virtual public charter school in Maine. Maine Connections Academy in Scarborough was the first.
Maine Virtual Academy Head of School Melinda Browne said she thinks many online platforms should be used for the better for schools.
“It offers tremendous potential and I’m extremely excited about what this can do for the state. Because though it’s really pretty tragic how it happened that so many people got involved with this quite suddenly, I really feel there is a silver lining here so let’s develop it. We’re all working to do this together,” she said.
Both O’Roak and Browne said remote learning benefits rural states like Maine.
“Not waste that time every day on a bus when you could be actually doing school and learning,” O’Roak said.
The teen later added, “We need that option out for all students. I think options are great. Everybody should have them, especially for education.”
Browne said for educators, it’s all about preparing and utilizing each individual teacher’s skills.
“The emphasis is really on thinking ahead and planning it out and really knowing what you want the students to learn. Because as we say at our school, it’s not what you teach that matters, it’s what the students learn,” she said.
O’Roak connected remote learning to the passage of a recent referendum that eliminated philosophical and religious exemptions for vaccines.
“It’s kind of ironic that now we use this platform, this alternative, as a safer measure for schools,” she said.
To learn more about Maine Virtual Academy, visit https://meva.k12.com/