It's been over a year since the pandemic began and throughout that time, many families pushed to get their children back inside the classroom. However, some are finding online learning works better for them.
Like sixth grader Will Perez, who attends Kyrene Digital Academy.
Will and his mom Ashlee live in Gilbert, but say they were looking for a more immersive online learning model, which is why they switched to Kyrene Digital Academy in the fall.
"My husband and I are both in healthcare, so we were looking for a safe environment for him to learn in” Perez said. “One of the things I wanted was a (synchronized) learning environment where they were all live classes."
Back in June, the Kyrene School District chose to add a new school to their lineup for families across the state not ready for their children to return to in-person learning, which is why KDA launched in the fall. Despite being online, students still participate in dozens of activities like field day, turkey trots and band class.
Ali Arndt teaches first grade for the online academy.
“It fits certain parents scheduling," she said. "Certain jobs are still online."
She says she makes sure her students take "brain breaks" every day and make time for outdoor activities.
“To get them out and moving and to replace recess and things like that," she said.
Principal Dr. Kyle Ross says 1,200 students are currently enrolled, making it one of the largest schools in the district. He says so far, 800 students are signed up for next year.
The Perez family is one of them.
"He's still able to get some of those extra things you wouldn't think would be able to happen over this digital platform," Perez said. "He's just happy. He's a happy kid, he's happy to go to school and that makes my heart happy."
"It’s important for parents to have conversations with their kids to try and figure out what’s going to work best for them and if they feel that our model of live instruction that follows a daily schedule might work better for them than some other options, then we’d like to talk to them about coming on board with us," Ross said.