WOODS CROSS -- Davis County is getting a new virtual school that plans to serve Utah kindergartners through 12th-graders.
Classes begin Aug. 29 for the new -- and free -- online charter school, Utah Connections Academy, which is based in Woods Cross.
Utah Connections is part of a network of Connections Academy schools with offices in 22 states.
Linda Harless, who served two and a half years as principal of Arizona Connections Academy, has signed on as principal of the Utah school.
"There are all different kinds of students who want to come to our school," she said.
"I have seen students who are gifted and talented and want to move faster and work at a higher academic level. I have had students that need more flexibility in their school day, like a hockey player in my last school. She was on the road a lot, and she did extremely well."
Children with professional commitments or with health challenges are among the usual applicants. Children who need extra tutoring or who have suffered bullying at traditional schools are among those who have applied to other Connections Academy schools, Harless said.
More than 1,600 students and parents expressed an interest to Connections Academy's website, www.connectionacademy.com, Harless said. That's why the organization decided to set up the Utah school.
The education requires a strong commitment from an at-home tutor, who helps the student stay on schedule with course work.
In the lower grades, students will work more with their tutor and less on the computer (which is loaned by the school), and vice versa for higher grades. Some online presentations are available at any time, and some are live, with students enrolled expected to be online and participate at scheduled times.
Students who are struggling can get additional time with an online tutor.
Schoolwork must be turned in on a daily basis for grading by the teachers on the Academy faculty.
"When I've hired teachers from a brick-and- mortar background, they have worried they wouldn't get to know the kids," Harless said.
"What's been interesting is, within three months, they tell me they know the kids better than they knew their previous students in classrooms because they interact more with the parents and families. They develop a very close relationship, which is positive."
Connections Academy offers core and elective courses, and students can sign up for online clubs focused on activities that include broadcasting, chess, math, robotics, science and protecting the environment.
In addition, the school offers real-world field trips.
Harless said parents of Utah students have already met and decided to aim for field trips at least once a month. They are working on a list of site suggestions.
Harless suggests parents of at-home students arrange for their kids to have more social interaction with peers by encouraging play in the neighborhood or making sure children get involved in extra sports or church activities.
Utah Connections Academy is still accepting students. Its charter allows for 350 students, with 216 now enrolled. All students in Utah are eligible to enroll.
Online schools aren't a good fit for everyone.
"It can't be just a child sitting at home," Harless said. "They need the support of a learning coach there, working with us.
"It does take more commitment than a traditional school. If mom and dad are working and expect their child to do well without their support, it's not going to work. I feel that if a student will be left alone a lot, they would be better off in a regular school."
For more information on Utah Connections Academy, check out its website, www.utahconnectionsacademy.com, or attend one of the information meetings listed on the site under "events."