Virtual Schools Becoming More Popular for Mass. Students

About 2,300 students are enrolled at TECCA Connections Academy, a virtual school in which children receive their lessons online

When Melanie Joubanian opens her computer, she’s turning on the lights to her virtual classroom.

"I'll start with a question to get their brains flowing," she said.

Joubanian teaches fourth grade at TECCA Connections Academy. The school day is all done remotely with a teacher on one computer and the students on theirs. They communicate through video or audio chat and students see the lessons on their screens.

"They'll come into my live classroom, we'll greet one another, they can see me, they can use their webcams," she said.

More than 2,000 students are now enrolled in Massachusetts' largest public online school district. The exact student body is 2,300, up by 400 from when they launched in 2014.

Classes run from kindergarten through 12th grade and it’s growing in popularity. TECCA held its back to school event at Gillette Stadium last week.

"That I get to talk to a teacher and I don’t have to leave my parents at home," said a second grade student.

Each family has a different reason for breaking out of the brick and mortar mold.

"The main thing is flexibility," said parent Mayumi Slazas.

"Do I think it’s the wave of the future? I do," said parent Tracey Sierra.

Sierra is a longtime teacher at a traditional school but now, her 11th grade daughter is switching to the online school.

"I wanted her to have more real world experience than traditional schools might offer," she said.

Joubanian has been teaching at TECCA since it started five years ago. She said not being in a physical classroom with her students doesn't make her interactions with them less personal.

"I don’t think so because kids have a chance to interact through an online platform where we greet one another. We ask how everyone is doing," she said. "I just think we have so much room for creativity and innovation."

Superintendent Dr. Adam Goldberg believes that's what sets TECCA apart from other schools since students now have to adapt to changing world.

"When you look and see there is another option, it requires a different concept of family engagement and of family and school partnership, but there is another way that it can be done," said Goldberg.

Students at TECCA must meet the same state requirements as those in traditional schools and tuition is free.

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