Cyber schools ring a bell with more students, parents

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Almost 14,000 Minnesota students from kindergarten to 12th grade are now enrolled in online schools.

The St. Cloud Times has the latest numbers from the Minnesota Education Department, which had reviewed and approved 27 online learning providers as of last August. The programs, including online charter schools, multi-district programs and single-district programs, educated 13,826 students in 2012. Enrollment has increased by a stunning 82 percent over the past five years, according to Keeping Pace, an annual report by educational consultant Evergreen Education Group.

The Times story focuses on Abigail and Josua Rios of St. Cloud who are in fifth grade and kindergarten. They are enrolled in MTS Minnesota Connections Academy, a virtual K-12 public school that students attend from homes across the state. Their mother Liliana Rios said she enrolled her daughter in the program when her teacher said she was ahead of her peers.

“She’s being challenged and she can work at her own pace,” she said.

For socialization purposes, she said students can attend field trips arranged through the online school. Melissa Gould, principal at MTSMCA, said parents enroll children in online schools for reasons that include flexibility, health issues or problems with traditional programs. She added that adults who've dropped out enroll to complete high school courses.

An increasing number of colleges offer online programs. Earlier this fall, the Minnesota Daily reported that the University of Minnesota offered more than 1,200 online classes in 2012. The story said that those online classes are not less expensive than traditional coursework. In fact, the story said that online classes can require additional fees on top of tuition.

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