More MN K-12 students choosing online education - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

More MN K-12 students choosing online education

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An increasing number of students are booting up computers instead of heading to the bus stop.

Enrollment is open for the 2014-2015 school year at three of the largest virtual schools in the state of Minnesota, where student numbers are growing.

"This is basically just one of our pages of our textbook," says Fergus Falls Student Emma Newton.

Newton is a junior enrolled at two different kinds of high school.

"We have our band, orchestra and choir, so I have all of those underneath my belt," she says.

Her involvement in traditional school activities and the available classes keep her at Kennedy Secondary School in Fergus Falls, while some outstanding graduation requirements keep her in online school at K-12 Minnesota IQ Academy too.

"They just decided that we would do it over online schooling instead, since it might be a little bit easier to fit into my schedule," she says.

Online learning is a growing trend. IQ Academy is based in Fergus Falls, but has seen an increase in state-wide learners every year since they started up seven years ago.

"When the district created it, I think they started with 12-14 students that first year and we've ended the past couple of years with over 500," says Minnesota IQ Academy Head of School Jennifer Thielke.

Online learning at various levels is becoming more widely accepted at public schools across the state.

"In the state of Minnesota, the rule is that students and families can choose up to 50 percent online," says Thielke.

More than half needs to be approved by the school or students can go full-time online. 

IQ Academy says one of the biggest concerns they hear is screen time taking away from social activity.

"The students do meet with their peer groups and their teachers. It's not necessarily face-to-face, but teachers do have the ability to turn on the camera and so can the students," she says.

"I actually really like it. It's really convenient. You can access it basically anytime," says Newton.

The IQ Academy head of school says growth is due to parents in Minnesota discovering there are more flexible options out there to suit the needs of their learner.


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