Virtual Learning on the Rise

Local students choosing in-home learning have plenty of support

BY Kristin Reeser

Joseph Siebold chose New Hanover County Schools’ virtual learning program, e-Academy, over traditional in-person classes for his freshman and sophomore years. Photo by Allison Potter
Joseph Siebold chose New Hanover County Schools’ virtual learning program, e-Academy, over traditional in-person classes for his freshman and sophomore years. Photo by Allison Potter

Five years ago, New Hanover County Schools (NHCS) recognized a need to provide tools for students being educated at home. The board decided that home-schoolers should have access to the same curricula as public-school students, and NHCS developed the e-Academy — an entirely virtual learning program that is available to students at no cost.

The e-Academy is facilitated under the Career Readiness Academy at Mosley, a public, alternative school in Wilmington, and is open to middle and high school students.

The program began small with only three attendees. It has since expanded far beyond the home-school audience. Sarah Gubitz, the NHCS supervisor of online learning, says 70 students are currently enrolled and applications are still coming in this school year.

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly increased interest in the program over the past year and the e-Academy was ready to offer its online solution to concerned parents.

The Owings family says they are incredibly thankful to have found this virtual learning program. Their son, Luke, has an immune deficiency and the e-Academy has allowed the family to focus on school instead of worrying about getting sick.

While the pandemic may have led a greater number of students to the e-Academy, it’s not the only reason why some families are choosing to stay virtual. 

Students and parents alike enjoy the flexibility of the schedule and the more relaxed learning environment. Gubitz says remote learning while schools were closed allowed some parents to realize their children preferred the online environment over traditional in-person classes.

That was the case for Amie Siebold. Amid ongoing uncertainty last year, she enrolled her son, Joseph, in the e-Academy for ninth grade. She says the program provided a consistent, rigorous, and high-quality education. 

Joseph liked the e-Academy so much he decided to return for 10th grade.

“I like the added time in my schedule and the ability to work at my own pace,” says Joseph, a motivated, independent learner who is enrolled in college-bound courses this year.

Gubitz says the e-Academy’s flexibility uniquely accommodates outside endeavors. The program includes students who are also actors and professional surfers.

The e-Academy partners with various course providers to ensure that students receive the best access to curriculum, including advanced placement (AP) and honors courses. The course providers include North Carolina Virtual Public School, Edgenuity, and the North Carolina School of Science and Math (NCSSM). 

Students who enroll in NCSSM can partake in a dual-enrollment program or sign up for individual courses. This is a unique opportunity for e-Academy students since their courses are not offered by any other virtual program.

The e-Academy also has courses developed and taught by New Hanover County teachers. 

Every student is paired with a Virtual Academy Coordinator who acts as a liaison between the students, the course providers, and e-Academy administration. The coordinators provide a human component to the digital classroom. They monitor each student’s experience and help to create weekly accountability.

Students who complete their high school requirements with the e-Academy will graduate and receive a diploma from the Career Readiness Academy at Mosley. Home-schooled students can dual enroll in the e-Academy and participate in courses with more flexibility.

Middle school students must enroll in three year-long courses to be eligible. High school students must maintain enrollment in two courses per semester.

Parents who want to learn more can visit or call Sarah Gubitz at 910-251-6161.

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