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Virtual schoolmates meet for real-life fun

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North Carolina Connections Academy students, from left, Timmy Richardson, 12, Benjamin Lebron, 10, Nathaniel Lebron, 13, and Justin Floyd, 14, watch a fellow student bowl during a field trip Wednesday at the Bowling Center.

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Several area students from the North Carolina Connections Academy met together Wednesday at the Rocky Mount Bowling Center for a time of  fun and fellowship as they spent face time with some of their virtual schoolmates.

North Carolina Connections Academy is a tuition-free virtual public charter school serving students in grades K-11 throughout North Carolina. The school, which was approved in 2015, has a statewide enrollment cap of 2,160 students. Students work from home or another location at their own pace using a personalized online curriculum and Live Lessons in each subject taught by an online teacher once a week. Parents or other responsible adults serve as “learning coaches” to help keep students on track and act as liaisons between the student and the virtual school.

Melva Floyd, regional community coordinator for North Carolina Connections Academy, said she tries to plan group activities for students in the area once or twice a month so they can get together in the real world. Normally, students would meet in chat rooms associated with the virtual school or would “see” each other during weekly Live Lessons.

Floyd said this is the second year her children — a daughter in sixth grade and a son in eighth grade — have been a part of the school. During the previous years, she home-schooled her children, but she was interested in the advantages that the new virtual charter school has to offer.

“This still offers the same flexibility home schooling does, but I like that fact that it is a free, accredited program that would allow my children to transfer easily into a public school setting if that was ever needed,” Floyd said.

Her daughter, Kaylan, said she likes her new school because she can work at her own pace.  

“I can work ahead on lessons if I want to, but if I am having trouble with a lesson, I can take extra time to go through it,” Kaylan said.

Marda Lebron said this is the first year her sons have participated in the school, but she has enjoyed the experience. Like Floyd, Lebron has home-schooled her children in the past and still enjoys her role as a “learning coach,” which is very similar to that of a home-school mom. With the North Carolina Connections Academy, however, Lebron said she has more support.

“My children have a relationship with their online teachers and can ask them questions. As a learning coach, I also can connect with the teachers to get questions answered. And the online “Learning Coach University” teaches me how to deal with problems I face. I don’t feel so alone,” Lebron said.

Lebron said she also enjoys seeing her sons become so engaged in the curriculum.

“I love it,” said Benjamin Lebron, who is in the sixth grade. “I feel happy working with this curriculum and love seeing other students in my virtual class.”

Nathaniel Lebron, an eighth-grader, said he really enjoys having a virtual teacher.

“The teachers are really understanding and awesome. I can ask them questions and they will get back to me as soon as possible,” he said.

North Carolina Connections Academy will add one grade per year, ultimately serving students in grades K–12, said Rebecca Buddingh, a spokewoman for the school.

“North Carolina Connections Academy is accredited by AdvancED. North Carolina Connections Academy provides students with the flexibility to learn from anywhere with an innovative curriculum that meets rigorous state education standards. The combination of state-certified teachers, a proven curriculum, unique electives, technology tools and community experiences creates a supportive and successful online learning opportunity for families and children who want an individualized approach to education,” Buddingh said in a written statement.

For more information about the school, visit the school’s website at https://www.connectionsacademy.com/north-carolina-virtual-school

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