Back to School Season Goes Virtual with Online Public Schools


BALTIMORE, MD, August 4, 2009 — More children are logging on instead of getting on the bus this back-to-school season. The economy, technological advances and parent demand for high quality public education alternatives have a record number of kindergarten through 12th grade students enrolling in virtual public schools for the 2009–10 school year.

About 1 million children are learning online, and their ranks grow by about 30 percent each year, according to research by Evergreen Consulting. Currently, 44 states have significant supplemental online learning programs, or significant full-time programs, in which students take most or all of their courses online.

“One reason families are turning to free, full-time virtual public schools is that parents desire a more personalized public education for their children, where students’ studies are tailored to their abilities and interests, and they are empowered to work at their own pace,” says Dr. Steven Guttentag, senior vice president and chief education officer for Connections Academy, a leading online public school. “These schools are a great public school alternative for students who just aren’t thriving in a traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ classroom setting.”

The desire for a customized learning experience prompted the Trang family of Portland, Ore., to enroll two children in a full-time virtual public school. Both students are musicians and academically gifted, and weren’t feeling challenged in their local public school. Parents Timothy and Thu Ha enrolled their children in a virtual public school, where they could do advanced-level work. Mom, an accountant, even gave up her full-time job to serve as the kids’ on-site “learning coach” in their virtual school.

The tough economy is another reason some families turn to free virtual public schools. The Ridenour family of Ohio used to have its kids enrolled in a private school, but the children are now students at a free virtual public school. Mom Mary Anne says her primary motive for switching the kids was finding a high quality educational alternative for her children.

However, she notes that an added benefit is the monetary savings. By eliminating expenses on everything from tuition and uniforms to medical bills – the kids don’t get sick as much since they’re not exposed to typical classroom germs – the family has saved “$7,000 to $10,000 a year per child by switching to the free virtual school,” Ridenour says.

In most full-time virtual public school programs that kids attend from home, families get tremendous flexibility in when and where school takes place, flexibility that helps them meet job and family needs. So children reap the benefits of a high-quality public education and important time with parents, and working parents don’t have to choose between seeing their kids, or seeing them off to school.

Parents who are required to travel for work can share unique opportunities instead of leaving the family behind. And families can enjoy significant savings on educational expenses.

In many states, parents can still enroll their children in full-time virtual public school programs for the coming school year. To learn more about virtual public schooling and if it’s right for your family, visit www.ConnectionsAcademy.com.

About Connections Academy
Connections Academy is a leading national provider of high-quality, highly accountable virtual public schools in fourteen states operated in partnership with charter schools, school districts, and state departments of education. Connections Academy schools deliver top quality, personalized education for students that combines certified teachers, a proven curriculum, technology tools, and community experiences to create a supportive and successful environment for children who want an individualized approach to education. In Connections Academy's Personalized Performance Learning® approach, students use daily lesson plans and curriculum materials provided by Connections Academy. Teachers develop a learning plan for each student, utilizing a proprietary, web-based Learning Management System to deliver, track, and administer the learning. In 2009-10 Connections Academy will serve students in Arizona, California (Southern and Central), Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Connections Academy offers grades K through 12, though some schools do not offer all grades. For more information, call 800-382-6010 or visit www.connectionsacademy.com.