California Connections Academy

California Connections Academy Central is a free online public school serving students in grades TK through 12 throughout Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties.

Going to school takes up about one-third of a child's day, and sometimes a student has other passions in life to pursue.

One solution to balance the best of both worlds might be to turn to a transitional kindergarten to 12th grade online school, like high school sophomore Bryn Johnson did several years ago.

He is an avid tennis player who travels frequently for matches. When he discovered he could fit California Connections Academy's online curriculum into his busy schedule, he made the switch in third grade.

“Connections Academy has been great for me because it allows me to travel the world for my tennis, while still keeping up with my studies,” Johnson said.

This week, 189 students from Kern County turned on their computers, logged into online lessons and started a new school year through California Connections Academy Central.

California Connections Academy Central is a free online public school serving students in grades TK through 12th throughout Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties. In all, more than 450 students in Central California logged on for the first day of school.

The academy has given a variety of students — those who don't like the traditional school model or can't fit an eight-hour school day into their busy lives — the chance to pursue their education for the past 15 years.

"They can work independently at home, but with teacher support," said Zig Elizondo, a middle school math teacher for California Connections Academy Central. "Kids access the material via computer. If they have questions on projects, they can contact the teacher."

Students log in to access a given day's lessons, which they can work on anytime. There are also live lesson classes where a teacher presents to a virtual group on a digital whiteboard.

Courses available include foreign languages, math, digital technology and web design, as well as a variety of honors and Advanced Placement courses. The school also provides certain University of California-approved courses, and Advancement Via Individual Determination courses for sixth through 12th grades to help students prepare for college and careers.

There are also field trips and other activities that allow students to meet their peers off-line.

"We have three festivals a year, and they’ll come with families and meet with teachers. We also have field trips all over the state ... the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, museums, college tours, nature walks," Elizondo explained. "Kids need socialization, and we know it’s not good for them to stare at a computer all day."

Connections Academy also offers chapters of National Junior Honor Society, National Honor Society and NCAA core courses, as well as free online clubs and activities.

While many parents are still not sold on an online TK-12 education model, Elizondo said they might start changing their minds since universities began offering more online classes in recent years. If parents do want to consider online schooling for their children, it's important to do research beforehand.

"It works because it fulfills a need. It could be many different things: a student didn’t get along well in the school system, a need for a flexible schedule for athletes and actors. We have kids that that want to move ahead (faster) than the rest of the class," Elizondo said. "There’s a whole range of kids and families that our system works for ... and we’re happy to have them come in. It’s the same material just taught in a different way."

To learn more about California Connections Academy Central, visit https://www.connectionsacademy.com/california-online-school.

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

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