Bryan students part of growing virtual school program

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BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - A Bryan family is joining a growing number of families sending their kids to online school. Thousands of students across the state will be learning from home or anywhere with an internet connection.

High school senior Emma Lawson and her 8th grade brother Alex are getting ready to go back to school. They've been learning virtually for several years. For Emma, getting ready for back to school means a short walk to her family's living room.

"There are real teachers behind the screen who are helping you work though whatever lessons or whatever," she said.

"You do get a lot of that one on one contact with teachers who can help you if you have a question with something specifically," Emma Lawson added.

Texas Connections Academy is a free virtual school for grades 3 through 12. The online school is free for any student that was enrolled in Texas public schools the previous year. Some of the books for their upcoming school year have already arrived.

"It's really nice being able to work at your own pace, be able to do lessons whenever, wherever and just being able to have that experience," Alex Lawson said.

"They are meeting state requirements just like students do in brick and mortar but they don't have to physically show up at a school in order to access that curriculum. They still have very highly qualified and engaging teachers," said Lee Ann Lockard, Texas Connections Academy School Leader.

"Our teachers are all certified for the subject in which they teach and they also have credentials to teach in the online environment," she said.

Last year, 571 students graduated from the school and are part of Houston Independent School District. More than half attended a special graduation ceremony.

“A lot of times people think the virtual setting is sitting in front of a computer and reading and it’s so much more that that," said Lockard.

"I'm not directly responsible for teaching them the curriculum which is something that we have really appreciated. My main goal as a learning coach is to make sure the kids stay on track," said Emma and Alex's mother Tiffany Lawson.

She admits she was apprehensive at first.

"We kind of stepped into it slowly, not sure what we were getting into but once we really got into it, we realized it really does work well for our family," she said.

"I was not satisfied with the middle school I was going to originally and I wanted more flexibility in my life. Connections offered that way to do it so it was really helpful," said Emma Lawson.

The school is funded by the state. Texas Connections Academy has a cap of enrollment of 6,000. Administrators tell us they are close to reaching that cap.