While most Texas students will return to brick-and-mortar classrooms for the 2013-2014 school year, some will need to walk only as far as their computers.

Texas statute allows virtual, online schools for students. Currently, three operate in the state, according to the Texas Education Agency.

Texas Connections Academy is an accredited, tuition free, virtual public school for students in grades three through 12. The academy began educating Texas students in 2008, and expects an enrollment of about 4,000 students for the upcoming year.

“More and more families are looking for an education that is more tailored to their child’s needs,” said Lea Ann Lockhard, the academy’s executive director. “They are looking for more flexibility within their child’s education.”

The academy’s curriculum is delivered online, and is aligned with state standards. Students use a number of resources, including self-paced lessons, interactive discussions via message boards and sometimes classes in real-time, online classrooms with other students and teachers.

In addition to providing the online curriculum, the group provides textbooks, workbooks and hands-on materials. The academy employs certified teachers, who interact with students and families in person, as well as online.

“Some families choose to come to us because their child may be struggling in some areas, and others come to us because their child is accelerated,” Lockhard said. “Classes may be moving too fast or too slow for them.”

That flexibility appealed to 11th-grader Michael Eveans, who attended an information session hosted by Lockhard in Killeen on Wednesday night.

“A lot of classes just move too slowly sometimes,” Eveans said. “I think (online schooling) would help me to work independently, and that will help me when I go to college.”

With technology playing an increasing role both in and out of schools, Lockhard said she saw more parents and students willing to consider online schooling.

“You are seeing online classes becoming more common, especially at the college level, so I think more people are becoming more comfortable with the idea of getting an online education,” Lockhard said. “We are in a place where families are looking for a school that molds to fit their child.”

The academic year for students enrolled in the academy’s virtual school begins Aug. 25.

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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