Getting a virtual education: One family considers an alternative to the classic classroom

virtual school

With the ability to pace themselves and set their own schedules, Zoe and River McBride have time to pursue their artistic endeavors. Zoe wants to be an actress and musician and River loves ballet and fashion design.

Jennie McKeon | The Sun
Published: Friday, April 4, 2014 at 12:21 PM.

When Santa Rosa Beach sisters Zoe and River McBride get up to go to school, they don't have to go far. In fact, they don't even have to leave their house.

The McBride sisters aren’t home-schooled, but instead are part of the hundreds of thousands of Florida students enrolled in virtual school at Connections Academy .

The family of six has a busy schedule — Zoe and River take piano and ballet lessons respectively — virtual school not only offered flexibility, but has helped encourage both girls’ dream careers. Zoe, in fifth grade, is enrolled in a Julliard music class as well as piano and guitar lessons. One day, she hopes to become an actor.

“It gives us time to do different things than if we were in a brick and mortar school,” she said.

River, in seventh grade, is torn between fashion design and ballet. Through virtual school, she’s taking graphic design classes. Because she can pace herself on classes, she can juggle the five-plus hours she dedicates to ballet every week.

"Students enrolled in Florida Virtual School are truly able to have an educational option that is personalized to their academic needs," said Marcie Trombino, elementary school principal for Florida Virtual School, which partners with Connections Academy. "Each student has an individualized learning plan that is tailored to their strengths, interests, and areas of growth."

Virtual school is classified as a free, public school. Although different from the typical classroom, virtual school has all of the same requirements — FCAT, end of the year exams and even P.E. It also gives parents an all-access pass to their child’s education.

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