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Though Hurricane Harvey dumped unprecedented rainfall on Southeast Texas and many brick-and-mortar schools in the Houston area were forced to close for weeks, Texas Virtual Academy (TXVA) students have been able to attend online classes and complete their schoolwork as long as they had power and internet.

Matt Pownall is one such TXVA student who is grateful for the ability to continue learning despite what has happened around him. Matt’s home in League City, Texas – one of the areas hit hardest by Harvey – was under 30 inches of water due to flooding from nearby Clear Creek. The family had to be rescued from their home at 4 a.m. and has to completely rebuild the first floor, including the kitchen and dining room.

While he was without internet for more than a week, as soon as Matt was able to connect, “he was right back online and able to get back to school,” said his mom, Rosemary Pownall.

Meanwhile, 44 of the 45 schools in Clear Creek Independent School District, Matt’s home district, suffered some type of damage, and students could not return to school until Sept. 11, more than two weeks after Harvey struck.

Rosemary is thankful for the consistency which TXVA has provided her son during this difficult time.

“It’s like a home invasion – something has come in and destroyed your safety,” she said. “This is going to be difficult for all these children. Technically he’s only getting back a few days earlier, but it’s an enormous blessing in this aftermath process to have the flexibility to be able to take a mental break and go for a walk if he needs it.”

Now a senior, Matt has been enrolled in TXVA since fourth grade. His family moved to Texas from Pennsylvania, and the environment of his local brick-and-mortar school “didn’t serve him,” Rosemary said.

Rosemary also credits TXVA for helping all three of her children – including oldest daughter Nikki and youngest son Mark – get through the loss of their father from cancer. Now a student at the University of Texas, Nikki completed her final two years of high school with TXVA.

According to Rosemary, “Nikki really had time management under her belt going into college, but she noticed a lot of her peers were struggling during freshman year because they weren’t used to the independent schedule. In addition to the curriculum, I think there’s so much benefit built into the structure of the classes at TXVA that is amazing.”

As his family begins the rebuilding process, though life around him may be unsettled, Matt can return to his normal routine with the least amount of disruption in his education as possible thanks to TXVA.

About The Author

Jessica Schuler

Jessica Schuler joined K12 as manager of corporate communications in July 2016. Prior to K12, she spent 11 years working in athletics communications at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (2005-12) and at George Washington University (2012-16), supporting each school's athletics department and serving as primary media contact for several sports, including women's basketball. Jessica is a sports junkie who loves rooting for the Baltimore Orioles, Baltimore Ravens, Washington Capitals, Maryland Terrapins and GW Colonials. A native of the Baltimore area, she graduated from the University of Maryland in 2005 with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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