Virtual school scopes out valley
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” A “school without walls” ” for children who need special attention, or who have accelerated and are ready for more challenges ” may be on its way to the Glenwood Springs area.
Monday night, about a dozen parents attended an information meeting at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
The meeting was hosted by Connections Academy and was part of a month-long Colorado tour that outreach coordinator Brian Polangin is making around the state. Connections Academy is a Bethesda, Md.,-based virtual school operating in nine states, including Colorado. It is owned by Sylvan Learning Systems.
“This is our third year operating in Colorado,” Polangin explained.
Polangin described Connections Academy as “a private operator of K-8 virtual public schools.”
Even though Connections Academy students receive schooling at home, CA shouldn’t be confused with the traditional home-schooling model, he said.
Unlike home-schooling, he said, every enrolled child in Connections Academy receives a detailed, interactive, personalized lesson plan for the school year, which a parent or another adult designated as a “learning coach” guides them though.
Polangin said some families take turns hosting school days so that parents can keep working.
“We have instances where five families get together,” he said. “One day … will be spent at one house with one parent acting as a learning coach. Another day will be spent at another house.”
Learning coaches and students receive support from designated teachers, based in Bethesda, who are available by phone, e-mail and through the Internet.
There are other differences, too. Unlike children who are home-schooled, CA students in Colorado must receive the state-approved curriculum, and they take the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests just like their counterparts attending public schools.
Partnering with districts
Polangin said there are currently about 400 Colorado students enrolled in Connections Academy. He thought Grand Junction was the nearest community to Glenwood Springs that has students enrolled in the CA program.
Because CA is considered a public school, the program is provided free of charge ” just like public school. He said enrollment includes a computer, an online connection, textbooks, and a science and art kit.
“CA partners with school districts in communities it serves,” he said. “The Littleton school district has welcomed us with open arms.”
However, Polangin said he had not met with representatives from Roaring Fork School District Re-1.
Re-1 assistant superintendent Judy Haptonstall said she had not been contacted by anyone from Connections Academy, and said she would need to research the organization to be able to comment on it.
For Grand Junction eighth grader Aislynn Moore, her enrollment in Connections Academy tackled problems she was having in math class.
Aislynn’s mom, Peggy Moore, said her daughter fell behind last year due to Aislynn’s asthma, which caused her to miss days at her public middle school.
“She started getting behind because she was missing classes, and she couldn’t get caught up,” Peggy said.
Peggy decided to enroll her daughter in CA as a way to get some individualized attention.
“It was at my kind of pace,” said Aislynn. “Teachers call me and take me through problems step by step. Now my self-confidence is back.”
Aislynn will go on to high school in Grand Junction this fall.
“I’m really excited,” Aislynn said. “I know I can do it now.”
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518
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