by Becky GINOS email@example.com
WOODS CROSS—Not every child will enter the school doors this year. Some will be booting up their computers and clicking their way through their course work. More than 1,000 students from kindergarten to 12th grade have started the new school year online through Utah Connections Academy (UCA). The administrative offices are located at 687 W. 700 South, Woods Cross.
“It’s just different than a traditional brick and mortar school,” said parent Julie B., whose daughters are in the seventh and ninth grades. “Several factors played into us choosing UCA. My husband and I have both taught in college online and there’s a lot of advancement in that direction. We wanted to give them an edge because a lot of jobs have moved that way.”
Julie wanted her children to become proficient in navigating computer systems and communication. “Both girls are extremely efficient on computers,” she said. “They’ve learned the advanced uses of computers. One started a YouTube channel and the other does tutorials.”
Teachers in traditional schools are stretched thin with large class sizes, said Julie. “I’ve seen other kids struggling there. This is not for everyone but by removing my kids it frees up space for others to be there (public school).”
The online school allows Julie to keep her girls home while they learn. “UCA follows the state curriculum and they’re a public, state funded school,” she said. “That’s what drew us to UCA. They have the same requirements and have to hit the same benchmarks that their peers do.”
A big advantage is that coursework is open at all times. “If they wake up one day and don’t feel like math is going to be what they can do that day they can leave math and do something else,” said Julie. “They have the flexibility to customize it. We’ve figured out what works through trial and error. It usually changes every semester but we reevaluate where they’re at and their progress. We note what is working and what’s not. Every semester has gotten easier.”
Julie believes the online program holds students accountable. “If they don’t know what’s going on they can’t cover it up,” she said. “They can’t just slide through, which I really appreciate. Every single day we can see where they stand and what their grade is.”
Michelle Norton teaches second and third grades at UCA. “The best thing is the communication between teachers, students and parents,” she said. “Parents are really surprised how well they get to know their child’s teacher. We work as a team to help support students.”
Norton said there are plenty of opportunities for students to make friends and have classroom interactions like traditional schools. “We schedule live lessons each week,” she said. “It’s a great way to start the day and helps them feel like a part of the classroom – which they are.”
Norton’s classes also host monthly field trips. “The parents have loved these,” she said. “We play math games, do service projects, go to the zoo and have back to school and end of school socials. We’ve got several scheduled throughout the state this year. I’m very excited.”
Although Julie enjoys the outside activities, the social aspect is another reason she likes UCA. “Is junior high a good social environment?” she said. “So much goes on there that distracts them from education. This allows them to have more real world socializing. In traditional schools you’re forced into classrooms with bullying, etc. My daughters are still out in the world but not in a classroom sitting in the same seat stuck next to someone putting spit wads in their hair.”
Norton said having the coursework available 24/7 allows the teachers to support students in the areas they need help the most. “We have the opportunity to give each student a personalized education,” she said. “That’s what really drew me to this. That connection with the learning coach and the kids is really special.”
“People have preconceived notions about online school,” said Julie. “But my kids are learning the same things they’re learning in traditional school. They’re doing a great job.”
For more information about UCA visit www.connectionsacademy.com/utah-online-school.