Free virtual school option available for students, K-9

By Brittany Williams

Staff Writer

EL DORADO — The new Arkansas Connections Academy allows Arkansas students in grades ranging from kindergarten to ninth grade to attend public school, from home, tuition free.

“(Arkansas Connections Academy is) an online, public charter school in Arkansas. This is our first year and we’re excited to offer our students and families this school choice,” Principal Darla Gardner said.

Arkansas Connections Academy was approved in March by the Arkansas Charter Authorizing Panel and State Board of Education. With this approval, Arkansas Connections Academy can serve students statewide this school year.

“It’s always beneficial to be able to see what other options are available. Families have switched to Arkansas Connections Academy for many reasons like needing a more flexible schedule, or traditional school not working out,” said Gaby Rodriguez, Purdue Marion public relations specialist.

Other reasons parents have enrolled their children in Arkansas Connections Academy include medical issues that confine students to their homes, irregular travel and training schedules, Gardner said.

“Students can work any time of the day and in different settings. As long as they have internet access, they can complete their assignments,” she said. “We still follow all of the Arkansas state requirements as far as attendance is concerned, but they just have more flexibility.”

Gardner hopes to get more students into the virtual school and expressed that it’s not too late to enroll young scholars.

“Our goal for this year is to just provide an outstanding academic choice for families in Arkansas that need flexibility and an alternative choice,” the principal said. “We’re continually enrolling throughout the year so we don’t have an enrollment deadline. We’ll be adding students throughout the year.”

As of Wednesday, about 310 students throughout the state are enrolled at Arkansas Connections Academy. The charter school boasts of licensed teachers, an innovative, award-winning online curriculum and engaging electives.

The school will add a grade every year and by 2020, Arkansas Connections Academy will offer classes for Arkansas kindergarten through 12th grade students.

“We provide them with all of the counseling support that you would see at a brick-and-mortar school. Once we add all of the high school grade levels, we will be doing college visits,” Gardner said.

Even though Arkansas Connections Academy is based in Bentonville and has students around the state, the school even offers field trips for its students.

Gardner said, “Our first back-to-school picnic is scheduled for September in Little Rock, a central location. We’ll look all around the state in different regions and see where our families are enrolled, plan activities in those areas so that all of our families can participate in field trips if they choose to do so.”

At this point, the virtual school does information sessions online, which allows parents to see what their children would experience.

“Throughout the year, we will also plan info sessions in person throughout the state,” she said.

For more information, parents can go

Brittany Williams may be contacted at 870-862-6611, extension 131 or by email [email protected].

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