Info meeting set on a real virtual school

Parents will have a chance from 7-8:30 p.m. today to learn more about a tech-savvy alternative to traditional schooling during a meeting at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.

Colorado Connections Academy (ColoCA) is a free online K-12 public school with sister programs in 25 states. Founded in 2002, it has grown to more than 2,000 full-time students.

“It is a standalone school,” said marketing and outreach coordinator Jolie Riehm. “People compare it to home school, but we like to call it school from home.”

Students attend “live lessons” with an accredited teacher via Adobe Connect, where they can ask questions and chat with other students. In addition to a state-approved core curriculum, students get electives from instructors around the country, from art to yoga to a foreign language. They can join online clubs for activities such as chess or photography, participate in individual or group field trips, and are encouraged to get involved in local organizations like boy and girl scouts.

In the end, they can walk away with a standard high school diploma.

Last year, ColoCA had its first graduate complete 12 full years, but many students transfer after trying traditional school, or enroll temporarily due to health issues, travel or the like. They can even participate in sports at their local brick-and-mortar school.

Although it’s free, it does require a certain commitment.

“Parents, especially with the younger kids, have to be pretty hands on,” Riehm said.

It may not be the best fit for every student, either.

“If your student doesn’t pay attention in the classroom when the teacher’s right in front of them, that issue isn’t going to go away,” she said.

Still, it’s another option for a stay-at-home parent who’s looking for an alternative to traditional schooling or home schooling.

“We’re finding more and more people that this niche works for,” Riehm said.

ColoCA students score about average on standardized tests, and may even perform better in college due to better self motivation and time management skills.

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