Online K-12 school can be a sensible alternative for some

Jul 24, 2013 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Students can still participate in local school sports while enrolled in the online school, as well as take part in band, theater and other activities.

Representatives from Wyoming Connections Academy were in Riverton this month to offer information about online public schooling for students in Wyoming.

A tuition-free virtual school serves students in grades K-12 under a program sponsored by Big Horn County School District 1.

It serves students across the state.

Michael Loveland, a science teacher for grades 9-12, offered parents an overview of the curriculum, the online school experience, online teaching tools, one-on-one teacher student opportunities, the enrollment process, and additional programs for accelerated or gifted students.

Loveland said the academy can award state-certified high school diplomas, use of a laptop at no charge, and an Internet subsidy. He said the school can help students who may be behind as well.

Enrollment for the school in Wyoming, is nearing the 400-student mark, and three new teachers have been hired.

Their online school's main office is located in Cody.

Teachers from across the state are employed by the school, which is owned by Pearson, the educatioanl testing and assessment firm which administered Wyoming's PAWS test.

"Our technology is top notch, and parents are a huge deal for us," Loveland said. "(And) you can customize each day depending on your family's needs."

Loveland said teachers create a better learning experience by getting to know the student and family in a more involved atmosphere. Teachers are available over the phone, through e-mail, and during live classroom interaction or a type of video and audio lesson.

Students can still participate in local school sports while enrolled in the online school, as well as take part in band, theater and other activities.

Classes also suffice for the Hathaway Scholarship, and the Juilliard School has paired up with academy to provide performing arts opportunities.

The academy also sets up field trips or family social events.

A parent of a high school student from Lander attended and said he was interested in the online school because it offered more flexibility and because their son needed more motivation.

Loveland claimed the school also helps prepare students for college and helps them set goals.

Loveland said 96 percent of parents agree that curriculum is high quality, and 93 percent would recommend it to other families.

He added that the online school is more interested in pushing students to succeed rather trying to get them to the next grade.

Some advanced placement and honors classes are offered, and state-required testing also applies.

Correction: This story should have said that the school's service provider is Connections Academy, which is part of a company owned by Pearson. The school is a distance learning program of Big Horn County School District 1 and operates under the Wyoming Switchboard Network.

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