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Virtual Schools A Flexible Option For Students

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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GRAPEVINE (CBSDFW.COM) - Most students spend the first day of school finding their locker or their home room. But Tristin Thomas spent his first day of 8th grade at home, logging into his virtual classroom.

“We’re just going to look around the live lesson room,” Thomas told his teacher online as he scrolled around a home page with a command menu and areas for chatting between students and teacher.

Thomas is a young actor who has appeared in numerous plays and branched into commercials with the “Lawn Whisperer” public service ads. And, he found school and the stage clashing for his time.

“It made it hard for me because if all the sudden I did go to school I’d have a big test and I’d be like, ‘Uh, I don’t know what this is about.’
It’s because I had missed all those days of school and they skipped all those homework assignments that taught me how to do that stuff.”

Tristin is one of 200 students in Grapevine-Colleyville’s virtual school.

Grapevine-Colleyville is one of six Texas districts with a dedicated staff of virtual teachers. School is as far away as your smart pad and its available to any 5th through 12th grader in Texas. The district already has students in places like El Paso, Nacadoches and Beaumont.

Students and teachers chat, have live class time, do homework and tests — all on line. And it’s all flexible to the students’ time.

“They might be at the gym. They may be traveling with their family. They may be at a library or coffee shop. But they’re in classes every day.”

The virtual school isn’t just for kids who are in the arts or athletics. Think of all the kids who are simply unable to be in school.

“There are kiddos that struggle with health issues that being in a traditional setting every day, day in and day out, isn’t manageable for them,” Rogers said. “This is a perfect fit because they still get to have their college prep education.”

And, perhaps surprisingly, most parents don’t see their students distracted by the temptations of technology like wandering away from virtual school to a video game.

“It wasn’t that at all,” said Tristin’s mother, Lori Thomas. “I’ll go upstairs to his room and ask, ‘What did you learn? What are you doing?’ And I’ve got his grades right there and I can follow his progress. And they constantly send me updates. Its perfect.”

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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