As brick-and-mortar schools returned to in-person, full-time learning, some families decided to remain virtual.
Karina Codina, of Yelm, enrolled her three children in Washington Connections Academy last year, and has opted to keep them online for the 2021-22 school year.
“Originally, we enrolled because of COVID, when it hit.” Codina said. “We wanted to find a school that was already established with online schooling.”
The Codinas have a 9-year old, 12-year-old and 14-year-old enrolled in the school, and all of them have found value in the programs it offers, Codina said.
The Washington Connections Academy’s network of tuition-free online public schools aim to deliver high-quality education remotely, stated a news release from the academy. All of its teachers are state-certified and use a student-centric curriculum, while offering electives and technology tools.
“All of it’s been very positive,” Codina said. “At the beginning, it was rough, because we had never been involved with homeschooling, especially with three kids. And then all of a sudden, being constantly with them in the beginning (was difficult), but that got easier along the way.”
She said when the members of her family learned their parts and responsibilities within the program, the early challenges were worth it.
At first, it was a struggle to get her kids to complete assignments on time, but as the months progressed, they took a larger ownership of their work, Codina said.
“We’ve seen (our kids) become more responsible, being aware of time, their schedule and assignments,” she said.
The Codinas stayed with the school “because it became easy for us,” she said.
“We saw the convenience of being aware of what they’re learning,” Codina said. “Being at a regular brick-and-mortar school, we just kind of knew that they were doing OK because of the report cards, or from what they would tell us. But sometimes, when they were struggling, we didn’t know how to help them, I guess, or how to guide them.”
With the Washington Connections Academy, she said she has a greater grasp on what her children are learning and how she can help in her role as a learning coach, the role parents take in the process.
“I am able to help them and understand what steps are needed for them to accomplish their work,” Codina said.
With all the “self-explanatory” materials and curriculum provided for free, in addition to a teacher assigned to each of her children, Codina said the academy has covered all its bases in supporting her kids.
And she said the communication with education professionals has been largely positive.
“We can text the teacher, you know, have a conversation with her if we’re not understanding something,” Codina said. “It’s pretty much the same day, or within the 24 hours that we are asking them for help.”
She said response times like that have been helpful for her kids, because they are not stuck on one subject for very long.
According to the academy, 91 percent of parents agree their children are satisfied with the program; 92 percent of parents agree their children are making good progress; 88 percent of parents agree that the curriculum is high quality; and 90 percent of parents would recommend Connections Academy to parents whose children are not enrolled in the program.
“Our goal is always to make sure each child is set up for success by providing a consistent and encouraging learning environment, the right technology tools for success, and a group of passionate educators,” said Jenn Francis, executive director of Washington Connections Academy in the release.
Students in grades K-12 from across the state logged on for their first day at Washington Connections Academy this month to begin the 2021-2022 school year.
The school’s enrollment has reached more than 2,800 students, both new and returning, across the state.
“Many families in Washington experienced online learning at home due to the public health crisis,” stated the release. “While some students are choosing to return to traditional brick-and-mortar schools, Washington Connections Academy is seeing an influx of families who found success with online learning and are choosing to pursue a permanent virtual learning path.”
Washington Connections Academy works in partnership with Mary M. Knight School District for grades K-8, is in partnership with the South Kitsap School District for grades 6-12 and is in partnership with the Goldendale School District for grades K-12.