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San Clemente Journal

Capistrano Connections Academy - Virtual School Growing in Popularity Every Year

Jan 01, 2011 11:00PM ● Published by Brian O

by CeCe Darakjian

There is no question that computers have changed the way we live today. Want to buy a used toaster? Click on Craigslist and have your pick of twenty. Feeling lonely? Eharmony and Ok Cupid promise lifelong love. A hotel reservation? The best place to eat in Visalia? A photo of Brad Pitt? All of these and so much more are available in mere seconds with the simple click of a mouse.  But how about a kindergarten teacher for your five-year-old or a science class for your seventh grader? How about a speech and debate club for your high schooler? Well, believe it or not all of these things are available through the San Clemente located Capistrano Connections Academy, a web based public school program for students in grades K-12. With Connections Academy students attend a “virtual” school with all of the benefits of a traditional brick and mortar school … highly qualified and well-trained teachers, state-of-the-art technologies, the latest up-to-date text books, field trips, extracurricular activities and a caring and involved administrative staff. Virtual school may sound like a thing of the future, but make no mistake; it is here and growing in popularity each and every year.

   Capistrano Connections was founded in 2004, with just a few hundred students. Today it serves over one thousand and fifty students ranging from kindergarten to senior year of high school. A charter school sponsored by the Capistrano Unified School District is just like any other public school. There is absolutely no cost to attend. All textbooks and labs are free, and all of the teachers carry California credentials. The curriculum is strictly in line with district and statewide standards and students must meet rigorous evaluations and complete all state and national testing requirements. Day to day lessons take place both online and off line and include regularly scheduled interaction with teachers, including LiveLesson Sessions where teachers teach lessons and students can ask questions or engage in discussions. Parents are heavily involved in the day-to-day learning of their child and frequently interact with their child’s teacher. The school maintains rigorous participation guidelines and measures student progress frequently. Why would a family decide to choose a virtual school as opposed to their neighborhood elementary or high school? According to principal Jonathon Horowitz the reasons are as varied as the students who attend. “We have students who need the flexibility, maybe they are active in the acting or sports community. They may have a medical issue that makes it difficult for them to attend school. Some parents prefer the safety and parent involvement the virtual school offers.  And some students are looking for a much more accelerated program than a typical public school can afford.” 

Connections academy allows students to work at their own pace whether that may be working far ahead of their typical peers or taking some time off to travel or pursue other interests as long as they keep on track with their curriculum. Another advantage is that classes can be accessed from anywhere there is an Internet connection. Waiting for summer vacation, is now a thing of the past. Parents can load their kids and the car and take off any time they like, just pack the laptop. Many people would be surprised at the variety of classes available. Of course K-5 curriculum emphasizes reading, writing and math, but the academy also offers foreign languages (even as early as kindergarten), art, music, technology and science. As the student advances through the grades there are more and more classes available ranging from sign language to digital photography to psychology. And there are honors courses and Advanced Placement courses available as well as remedial and special education classes offered for those who qualify.

One of the main concerns parents have about enrolling their child in an online program is socialization and extracurricular activities. According to Dr. Horowitz the program takes extra care to provide a sense of community that includes both students and their parents. Numerous field trips are scheduled each month and entire families show up for trips to places like the Los Angeles Natural History Museum or the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The school holds regular picnics where students, their families, their teachers and administrators gather to engage in organized games and share concerns and stories of success. The school also offers on line clubs and activities that can also provide meetings off line when appropriate. Book clubs, debate teams, environmental clubs and robotics clubs are just a few of the offerings students can participate in with other students from their immediate school or other online schools around the country.  Virtual school may not be for every student, but more and more families are finding that their child can receive a first rate education, complete with top notch curriculum, cutting edge technology and plenty of opportunity for socialization without ever having to leave the comfort of their own home. And all with the click of a mouse!  b

Community november december january 2011
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