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Opinion: When it comes to school, I don't have a 'choice'

Ethan Kosmerick

School choice is a funny phrase to me. For me and my family, there’s never been any real choice when it comes to my education.

My name is Ethan Kosmerick, and I have Eosinophilic Enteropathy.

Eosinophilic Enteropathy is a rare and currently incurable autoimmune disease. In a nutshell, my white blood cells spend their time attacking and destroying my gastrointestinal tract instead of sustaining my immune system. It’s a disease I’ve lived with my whole life, and it’s been a challenge for me and my family to say the least. My condition requires nearly constant, complex care.

A traditional brick-and-mortar school has never been a realistic possibility for me, Kosmerick writes.

Over the years, I’ve gone through countless surgeries and procedures, and I regularly travel out of state several times a year for ongoing treatment with multiple specialists monitoring my health status. My current treatment plan includes a central line and numerous forms of medication throughout the day, all of which take a severe toll on my immune system, making seemingly normal everyday activities dangerous for me.

Needless to say, a traditional bricks-and-mortar school has never been a realistic possibility for me.

Despite my circumstances, I’ve been fortunate to have had a very normal school experience. For the past 10 years, I’ve been a student at Michigan Connections Academy — one of Michigan’s many online virtual charter schools. Time and time again, it’s proven to be the best possible fit for me.

My school provides me the opportunity to learn and interact with teachers and classmates just like any other student would, only without the possibility of being exposed to germs that could seriously jeopardize my health. My teachers are amazing and go above and beyond in providing quality instruction and support in whole-class, small-group, and even one-on-one settings.

And most importantly, Michigan Connections Academy lessons are available 24 hours a day, providing me with the flexibility I need to properly strike a balance between my education and health.

That’s my story, and I feel like it’s a good one to share as we celebrate National School Choice Week. Online school might not be the right choice for every student, but it was the right choice for me, and I continue to be thankful that it remains an option. Drawing attention to that fact is what this week is all about.

However, it’s important to note that my story isn’t unique — there are students all over the state facing circumstances like mine. In fact, I don’t even have to leave the house to find one — my brother, Nolan, suffers from similar conditions and takes advantage of online school for the exact same reasons.

For the first time ever, my school has students in all 110 Michigan House districts. The point is, not all students are the same. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to education.

The only wide-sweeping statement that is true is that all children deserve the same opportunities to access a quality education. All students — including those that choose online school — deserve fair and equal funding. That seems like an obvious statement but for some reason, year in and year out, that assertion is challenged by some of our state’s lawmakers — it’s time for that to end.

During this chaotic past year, online school proved to be a critical source of stability and normalcy for thousands of students across the state. That’s something we all need to remember and recognize well after National School Choice Week has come and gone.

Ethan Kosmerick is an 11th-grader at Michigan Connections Academy.