In spring 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Pennsylvania students had their first experience with online schooling. But rising fifth grader Lucas Alvarado from Nazareth has never had any other choice. 

“Because of Lucas’s medical condition…he would not be able to attend in-person school,” says Lucas’s mother Naomi Alvarado.

Lucas was born with eosinophilic esophagitis (EOE), a chronic inflammatory disease that causes difficulty eating and swallowing and leads to severe abdominal pain. Frequent extended trips to the hospital and round-the-clock care are necessary, especially when there are flare ups that can make consuming foods dangerous. 

When Lucas was as young as two, his mother was considering alternative schooling options.

“His education is a top priority that we would not let his illness get in the way of,” she says. 

While homeschooling Lucas herself was an option, she admitted that she would not excel as an educator, in addition to being a full-time mother of two and caregiver.

She soon discovered that an online education would be the only way her son could get the schooling and care he needed without sacrificing one over the other. She enrolled Lucas in Agora Cyber Charter School, a Pennsylvania online school for students in grades K through 12. 

Because of his medical condition, Lucas was granted “asynchronous” status, meaning he can watch recorded versions of his classes in addition to attending live sessions. 

“This aspect of his online school has been crucial to ensuring that his illness does not impede his learning,” says Mrs. Alvarado. She adds that she sits in on his one-on-one lessons to ensure he has the assistance he needs while keeping his condition in check. 

Soon, she enrolled her older daughter into Agora’s program. A rising sixth grader, daughter Katlyn needed assistance with reading and distractions were causing her to fall behind. 

“Once we switched her to Agora, she was quickly brought back on-track and progressed up to grade level for the first time in her life,” explains Mrs. Alvarado. “She is excelling more than she ever thought she would.”

It is the flexibility and individualized learning plan that Mrs. Alvarado finds most beneficial. She plans on keeping Lucas in his online school until he graduates and is ready for college. 

Both he and his sister are already making plans for their future. While Katlyn wants to study art, Lucas hopes to become an archaeologist or work with animals. Whatever they decide to do, with their education, they know it is possible.  


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