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Students begin online academy school year

Johnathan Miller began to sign in to his web portal for his first day of seventh grade on Monday.

Johnathan Miller began to sign in to his web portal for his first day of seventh grade on Monday.

Nevada Connections Academy students in Churchill County began to log into their classes this week.

NCA is an accredited, tuition-free online pubic school for grades K-12. According to the academy’s website, the school offers students a complete learning experience with personalized instruction tailored to meet every child’s needs.

Steve Werlein, second-year principal of the academy, said NCA is like a traditional brick and mortar school, but it offers more schedule flexibility for students.

According to the academy’s website, it offers a rigorous, world-class curriculum designed to achieve results, meet students’ individual learning needs and accommodate students’ interest. It provides a flexible schedule with freedom for family time, extracurricular activities, volunteer opportunities, part-time jobs and more. It also has an integrated learning system that facilitates communication, allows quick access to online learning materials, and lets parents monitor student progress, all from one central system.

Werlein said the academy requires all teachers to be certified and hold the proper qualifications within the state they work.

“We have 65 teachers for grades K-12 who do most of their work via the Internet,” Werlein said. “At NCA, we’re committed to retaining the best state-certified teachers available and to giving them all the resources necessary to help each student succeed.”

Teachers are trained and experienced in online learning and virtual classroom management, Werlein said. He said NCA’s teachers also are engaging in effective classroom instruction, individualized attention, ongoing communication with students and learning coaches and personalized instructional programs and continuous progress tracking.

Werlein said students and teachers meet regularly via live lesson technology and in person. He said NCA teachers collaborate to share ideas, information, and teaching techniques with one another and NCA families.

One local family speaks highly of NCA and the strength it has given to her son to succeed in school.

Lee and Ruth Miller are transplants from Elko County and have two children.

“Our son Johnathan has been attending Connections since first grade,” Ruth Miller said. “We learned when he was younger that he had Asperger and was having a difficult time in public school, so we put him in Connections and he’s been succeeding ever since. He’s starting seventh grade this year.”

Ruth Miller said NCA offers her son the ability to focus his energy on his work in his own space.

“Working from home allows Johnathan the ability to really focus on his work with out being distracted from other students and he’s able to adjust his school schedule to fit his needs,” she said. “It allows for more one-on-one work with the teachers to help him when he’s having trouble with a lesson. The teachers usually respond to our emails within 30 minutes, or they’re a phone call away.”

Ruth Miller said NCA provides her son with a speech therapist who works with almost every day.

“You would think with Connections being an online school that it wouldn’t offer a lot of extracurricular activities or electives but it actually offer a lot more than what district schools offer,” Ruth Miller said. “They offer sign language, robotics, automotive, Chinese, Japanese and all sorts of athletic programs.”

Although he has teachers who keep up with his work, parents are asked to be learning coaches for their children, Ruth Miller said.

“What it means to be a learning coach is to make sure they are completing their work, turning it in and help them if they are stuck on something,” she added. “Parents are also required to keep a log of the work their children are doing and submit it to the teachers … just so they know parents are on top of things as well.”

NCA has given Johnathan the chance to succeed in school, she said.

“Him being at connections means he isn’t going to get bullied at school and he’ll never know what a school lock down is,” Ruth Miller said. “I know and he knows that he can do well in school, he’s a smart kid and this school has allowed him to see that and learn at his own pace with no distractions. We really enjoy connections and we will probably be enrolling our four-year-old daughter into the school once she’s ready.”