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FORT MILL --
South Carolina Connections Academy, a virtual public school, isn’t exactly homeschooling and it’s not a traditional public school either.
The virtual school allows students to learn from home through online lessons. They are under the instruction of South Carolina-certified teachers who communicate with students primarily through phone calls and emails.
Parents serve as a “learning coach,” and monitor students’ progress at home.
The school is holding an information session in Rock Hill on July 31 for parents and students interested in the alternative public school option. And 119 York County families are already taking advantage of the option, school leaders said.
Thirty-seven students from Fort Mill and Indian Land are already enrolled for the 2012-2013 school year, and more are expecting to enroll before school starts in the fall.
Fort Mill mom Tamra Greeley has three children enrolled. This fall will mark their fourth year with the school.
Greeley enrolled her children because it gave her more flexibility than a traditional public school. Greeley’s husband travels and, thanks to the virtual school, the family is often able to travel with him.
“Because it is virtual, as long as they have access to an internet connection they have access to our school,” said Executive Director Allison Reaves.
“We just take the computer with us,” said Greeley.
Although the school is home-based, school leaders encourage socialization among students. Greeley is a community coordinator for the school. There are nine coordinators located throughout the state. Each is responsible for organizing activities and field trips for the students.
In the past, students have gone to Charlotte Knight’s games, visited local farms and grocery stores and painted their own pottery at a Fort Mill studio. Students from across the state also are invited to a “Meet the Teacher” event each year, held in Columbia, as well as an annual student art show and field day.
“We try to mix it between doing things that will help the kids interact with each other and things that are educational,” Greeley said. “We keep busy.”
Reaves said that families often choose the school because of the flexibility it offers. Others choose it because it is a good alternative to homeschooling for parents who aren’t sure they can serve as their child’s primary teacher.
“As the curriculum gets progressively more difficult, a lot of families don’t feel comfortable and confident being the primary teacher for their child. They come to us as a happy medium,” Reaves said. “They serve as a learning coach but also get the benefit of the fact that they don’t have to do the lesson planning anymore.”
Greeley, a former teacher, said that having the virtual school’s teachers to rely on is a big benefit.
“If they get stuck or have a question, they email or call the teacher,” Greeley said. “They really do provide you with all the tools you need.”
South Carolina Connections Academy opened in 2008 and serves students in kindergarten through 12th grade. It operates in partnership with the South Carolina Public Charter School District.
The informational session will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. July 31 at the Baxter Hood Center, 452 S. Anderson Road in Rock Hill.