CHARLOTTE – Six parents expressed concerns Nov. 8 to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education about the funding and future location of the eLearning Academy.
The academy, based at 800 Everett Place, offers online learning for high school students in need of an alternative to the traditional classroom environment.
“We have been told we are going to be relocated next year, but we’ve also been told it could be sooner,” PTSA President Mary Sessoms said. “We would like for CMS to work hard and diligently to find a location that is central and accessible for all of our students.”
She created a map showing 45 of the academy’s students in the northern part of the county, 55 in the southern and others in between. She said it was essential the new location be somewhere in the center, preferably in the Dilworth or South End areas.
“Truly for our family – and I feel for this community – e-Learning Academy is a godsend,” she said.
Sessoms, who lives in the Providence High School boundary, said enrollment has increased from 125 students last fall to 250 currently. She believes the population will continue to grow.
Kimberly Keaton, of Davidson, explained how the school helped her son overcome his severe anxiety and depression. They had no success in public, private or Christian-based schools.
At one, point, Keaton’s son told the doctor he had thoughts of “ending it all.” She decided to pull him out of school to save his life. They eventually met with Tracey Pickard, principal of eLearning Academy.
“She gained his trust and through her unwavering belief in him, changed his entire outlook on school,” Keaton said. “The entire staff seemed to become his fan club. It was simply amazing.”
The ability to work at his own pace eased his anxiety, allowing him to focus on the work.
Denise Sutton described her child as a “pre-professional” at Charlotte Ballet, whom dances anywhere from seven to 10 hours a day, six days a week. Their home school is South Mecklenburg High.
“A traditional high school option was obviously not something that would work for us,” Sutton said.
“The eLearning Academy has an awesome leader and dedicated staff, although with very little resources,” Sutton added. “ They advocate for their students, our children, as if they were their own.”
Sutton said staff create a partnership with parents to ensure students are successful. That’s done through meeting with families and discussing goals to develop individual plans to fit their needs.
The school also offers opportunities for collaboration with other students.
Keith Webster, who has two sons enrolled in the eLearning Academy, believes online learning prepares students for an evolving, technology-driven world.
“As caretakers of this generation and the ones that follow, we believe that eLearning needs to move from an alternative form of education to a model form of education,” Webster said.
Superintendent Clayton Wilcox told eLearning Academy parents that they will be pleased with the conversations his amdinstration is having about where they’ll learn.
“There is a sense of irony when you’re talking about digital learning, but you’re talking about a place,” Wilcox said. “I get it, but we won’t do you wrong in this.”
Wilcox mentioned how he spent the previous week in California as CMS was inducted into the Innovative Schools Network. The recognition shows CMS is “building on the promise that we do recognize that digital learning and individualized, personalized learning is important for our future.”