Online classes can help parents who home-school and students who travel frequently for activities, and now Durango School District 9-R is upgrading its online offerings.
On Wednesday, the district announced it is authorizing Colorado Connections Academy@Durango, which will serve students in kindergarten through 10th grade in the 2016-2017 school year. Grade 11 will be added in the 2017-2018 school year, and Grade 12 will be added the subsequent year.
The move will expand Colorado Connections Academy offerings to the Western Slope, and Durango will partner with Mapleton, the first district that contracted with the academy.
“We are excited about the educational enrichment and supplemental opportunities that will be available for 9-R students through Connections Academy,” 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger said. “We are pleased to work with Connections Academy to offer courses traditionally not available in Durango, but also opportunities for new challenges for students who are excelling and provide additional supports for students who may be falling behind.”
This contract will give 9-R students two online options – the e-school through the San Juan Board of Cooperative Services and the academy, he said.
“We’ll keep both in the repertoire of offerings so we can match students with the right option,” he said. “Colorado Connections Academy has a good track record, with performance much higher than other online options, with similar rates to brick-and-mortar schools.”
Academy students must take the same standardized assessments as those in traditional schools.
As the authorizing agent, Snowberger said, 9-R will receive 5 percent of the per-pupil funding allocated by the state for the free public school, but will add only the responsibilities of financial and student-performance oversight. Mapleton’s Colorado Connections Academy Principal Chaille Hymes will supervise both entities.
The online school, which is expected to have at least 250 students when the school year kicks off in August, is prepared to handle at least 500, he said.
For the next school year, the district is expecting an additional $470,000 in revenue from Connections and some small growth in the number of students in the district’s brick-and-mortar schools, he said. The money could not come at a better time, when the negative factor – the monies voters approved in Amendment 23 in 2000 but which have been curtailed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights restrictions – continues to grow. The district is analyzing community support for a mill levy override for the November ballot.
The agreement was certified by both the Colorado Department of Education and the State Board of Education.
A national organization with more than 30 online academies across the country, Connections Academy uses Colorado-certified teachers to teach its courses in the state. Its offerings include language arts, science, math and social studies curriculum, as well as Advanced Placement and honors courses, career and vocational education and electives, including Spanish and Chinese, game design and digital art.