Virtual schools growing in popularity

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- A new way of learning is gaining momentum in the Chippewa Valley. Virtual schools first started popping up in Wisconsin in 2002.Since then one school says its program has quadrupled in size.

The principal of Wisconsin Connections Academy says when it first opened its doors twelve years ago only 200 kids were enrolled. Now more than 800 kids from around the state are taking the online program.

“I can't focus at all because work is just piling up, it’s a snowball effect. I just can't organize anything,” Mathew Cunningham said.

Menomonie seventh grader Mathew Cunningham says classroom distractions and trouble focusing lead him to look for other options when it came to his education.

“I thought of virtual school because since I have organizing problems I thought that I could just save stuff in a file and the computer could save it for me,” Cunningham explained.

The principal of Wisconsin Connections Academy, Michelle Mueller, says Mathew is just one of hundreds of students thinking about getting their education out of the classroom and logging in to learn.

“We do not refer to ourselves as home school. We call it schooling at home and while they sound similar they are very different. When you are homeschooled you are on your own,” Mueller said.

Mueller says many might think of virtual school as home school, but in reality the two are very different.

“We school at home, so kids are part of a public school. They have the same standards, the same state testing just as if they were attending public school,” Mueller said. “The difference is they are doing it from home.”

Even though the kids are learning from home, Mueller said the school works hard to make sure they get personal, face to face interaction.

“There is a lot of things that we do, the first is clubs and activities so the students can interact that way,” Mueller said.

In order to enroll in a virtual school, students and their parents must submit an open enrollment application. Those are due to the Department of Public instruction by the end of April.


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