For 16-year-old Breckenridge resident Kaitlynn Sockett, participating in high school via online classes makes sense. The teenager is a competitive skier, and the format allows her time to practice in Summit County, as well travel to Europe to compete."I was going to school over in Vail, and the traveling didn't give me the time to train that I needed," she said.Sockett, who is going into her junior year, attends the Colorado Connections Academy, a tuition-free, fully accredited virtual public school. The school is available to students in grades K-12 who reside anywhere in Colorado.Last school year, 14 Summit County children attended Colorado Connections.Connections Academy is actually offered in numerous states nationwide and contracts with school districts within the respective states; in Colorado, it's Mapleton School District.Sockett started asking about attending online school when she was in the eighth grade because she knew she wanted to put a lot of focus on skiing, said her mother Lisa Sockett. But for the family, that didn't mean sacrificing an education - Lisa Sockett called the course offerings robust. Among her choices, Kaitlynn can take Latin, Chinese and even advanced placement Chinese, Lisa Sockett said."At the end of the day, parents really want a solid education," Lisa said.Kaitlynn's English teacher Justin Siddall likes the format because he feels like he's able to coach students, rather than just lecture. He teaches through virtual classroom lessons, online quizzes and tests, and helps students individually via email or phone."It's a high-level curriculum that in many cases is better than many brick and mortar," he said. "Students can work around their own schedules, as opposed to the school's or the teacher's."
Siddall's students consist of those like Kaitlynn Sockett - whom he said excelled in his class - that need time to travel (school spokeswoman Stefanie Clarke said there are many athletes in training who attend), those with medical conditions, some who don't like their own school district and don't want to travel to another, and those who just work better from home.Every student gets a personalized learning plan, which helps them work up to their potential, Clarke said. For example, someone struggling in math, but not English, might have those classes tailored."The personalized learning and the flexibility are really key," she said.Clarke points out all the teachers are state certified, and the curriculum aligns with Colorado state standards. Because it's a public school, tuition is free.While Kaitlynn sometimes wishes she was around other students more, the training time is priceless, she said. She's currently taking a summer class to get ahead of next school year."The school has been working with her," Lisa Sockett said. "So she has one less class next winter, and will hopefully really succeed."
Colorado Connections Academy is hosting an information session from 6:30-8 p.m. tonight at the Silverthorne Pavilion. Those looking to speak directly with current parents of Connections Academy students are invited to attend a parent-to-parent meeting from 6:30-7:30 p.m. July 17 and August 8 at Cameez Frozen Yogurt & Coffee.For parents looking for additional information but unable to attend an in-person session, online information sessions are also planned; visit www.ConnectionsAcademy.com for details.