Surge of applications at Duval Virtual Instruction Academy

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In Jacksonville, parents can opt to enroll their student in the Duval Virtual Instruction Academy, or DVIA. The program isn’t the same as Duval HomeRoom, which is the program Duval schools used to conduct remote learning last year. Since the pandemic began, the virtual school is seeing a surge of interest, according to school leaders.

Action News Jax Anchor Letisha Bereola spent time interviewing the school’s leaders and researching the curriculum. She found it’s not traditional home-school; it’s what DVIA calls, “school at home.”

Natalie Jones, a single mom, has two of her children enrolled at DVIA. She was looking for changes for specific reasons for her seventh and eighth graders.

“It’s been absolutely amazing. I just wanted better for my children,” Jones said.

Bereola interviewed Principal Mark Ertel, Assistant Principal Dawn Elkins and DVIA teacher Kelly Fanning to get an inside look at how the virtual academy works.

“Do you feel like it’s your time or that the spotlight is on what you guys have been doing day in and day out for years now?” Bereola asked.

“Absolutely and it’s a great spot to be in,” Ertel said.

RELATED: For more Back to Class coverage, click here

DVIA is a K-12 Duval County public school. Students have the same calendar as the rest of the district. They get the same diploma at graduation, and teachers have the same credentials.

“We provide the curriculum, teachers, the support, instruction… all the pieces and parts that education should include. The parent can be the parent, the parent can be the monitor, the support the cheerleader for the student,” Ertel said.

So what's the difference between DVIA and Duval HomeRoom?

Duval HomeRoom took brick-and-mortar curricula and translated it for a virtual classroom. DVIA was designed to be a virtual classroom from the beginning. It’s a platform that uses technology to support a student, moving at their own pace, away from the classroom and at any time. DVIA is an asynchronous learning model that accommodates different learning styles and allows students to access courses anywhere and anytime online.

“It allows the student to move at their own pace, at their own time and when they make the decision to do so,” Ertel said.

Fanning said the concept may seem challenging to parents, but it’s familiar territory for most students.

“For the kids, by and large, of course, there are always some exceptions,” Fanning said. “I don’t think it’s not a foreign concept to them.”

The Jones family says they stick to a strict school schedule, especially when their mother is at work.

“They have full access to their teachers during the times they have available. It’s virtual. They can go online with them they can call them. They can text them. It’s a lot of one on one, and I think that’s what my children needed,”Jones said.

Even though students have direct access to teachers, parents aren’t off the hook.

“How much parent involvement do you think is required for this?” Bereola asked.

“It takes a lot. You’re constantly working with them to make sure they’re not video gaming, that they are watching their curriculum (and) really staying in touch with their teachers” Elkins said.

DVIA says successful students are usually self-starters, have good time management skills and hold themselves accountable.

For more information on DVIA, click here.