IA Connections Academy begins classes Thursday


August 15th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Students enrolled in the first-ever Iowa Legislature approved pilot online learning academy for K-through 12th grades, will begin classes Thursday, just as their counterparts head-off to the classroom learning environment in a traditional brick-and-mortar type building. The CAM School Board in January approved the entering into of an agreement with Iowa Connections Academy, for the 2012-2013 school year. IACA Principal James Brauer said the response they’ve received since enrollments started to be accepted after the open enrollment deadline of March 1st, has been phenomenal. Brauer said as of this (Wedneday) morning, 217 students had enrolled full-time in the online program, and it is possible they could have 225 students by the time the “virtual bell” rings Thursday morning.   Students enrolled in the online academy – which will have a building located in Anita – receive their education from fully-licensed, totally-endorsed teachers in their respective contact areas, on a daily basis.

Brauer says students will communicate with their instructors through a variety of electronic media. In addition, different field trips and club activities will be planned throughout the year, where students can get together with others, in order so they may socialize. And, while some people may be skeptical of students “sloughing-off” by not attending an actual classroom setting, Brauer says the power of being able to guide your own learning and have it facilitated by a teacher, provides students with a sense of “autonomy.” He says adults in the family will have to provide proof the student has spent a certain number of hours each day in the online classroom, just as traditional schools have to certify attendance figures.

But there is no online tracking of the students per se. Brauer says however, that some of the high school courses are set up so that students will be required to attend a webinar-type setting, and interact with other students as well as the teacher. He says one of the reasons online courses are becoming more and more popular, is the issue of bullying in the traditional school setting. He says while he has no hard numbers, the parents he’s heard from cited that problem as one reason for keeping their students home. Brauer says in the more than 125 phones calls he’s made to families enrolled in the Connections Academy, more than three-quarters of them indicated some form of bullying or harassment lead to their decision to enroll their child in the online program.

Brauer says as a virtual public school they still have to the various accreditation guidelines and all the State laws and regulations. Since they work with the CAM District, the requirements are tied to what the CAM School Board has approved, and the graduates receive their diploma from CAM. Connections will coordinate and host the graduation ceremonies. Currently around a half-dozen students will graduate next Spring from the Academy, if they successfully complete the program.