FARMINGTON — Seven seniors made history Friday night as they received their high school diplomas to become New Mexico Virtual Academy's first graduating class.
The Farmington-based online charter school held its commencement ceremony recognizing 10 graduating students on Friday at the Unser Racing Museum in Albuquerque. The 12th grade was added to the school this year, expanding its offerings from sixth through 11th grades in the 2012-2013 school year.
Deborah Jackson, Virtual academy head administrator, said it was amazing to see the seniors graduate with friends and family.
"Graduating our first class was very exciting, it was very emotional and I'm looking forward to (doing) it next year," Jackson said.
Before the ceremony on Friday, the school staff and students met at a restaurant for brunch to discuss their plans after graduation.
"We sat with them and talked with them about what their future plans are, where they are going," Jackson said. "Each one of the teachers got up and said something about each student that was in attendance. It was pretty emotional, it was good."
Senior Kylie Moran transferred to the New Mexico Virtual Academy for her senior year after spending her junior year and part of her sophomore year with the Nevada Virtual Academy.
Moran said the online lessons helped her accommodate her gymnastics training schedules. She said she enjoyed being in charge of her education.
"It required me doing a lot of it rather than having people breathing down my neck and making me do stuff," Moran said.
Moran's mother, Lydia Todd, said it was fulfilling to see her daughter graduate from the charter school.
Todd is the regional deputy vice president of K12 Inc., the company contracted to provide the virtual academy's education products and services.
"From a parent's perspective, it feels like I made the right choice for her," Todd said.
Moran said she feels prepared to attend the University of New Mexico in the fall and pursue a degree in athletic training.
The school has faced challenges in recent months, however.
On April 8, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King issued a formal opinion stating the online charter school was in violation of state law related to K12 Inc.'s involvement in "managing" the school.
Attorney Patricia Thomas, who represented the school, said the school has taken no new action since it issued an April 9 statement refuting the attorney general's claims.
The statement says "A close reading of the contract reveals that K12 provides educational products and services, but does not 'manage' or by any stretch 'operate' the school."
Lynn Barr, K12's state director of operations, said she does not expect the enrollment to be affected for the next school year by the opinion.
Barr said the school held their charter school lottery recently and has a rather long waiting list for young people hoping to secure one of the school's 500 openings.
Jackson said she feels good about the school's second-year performance.
"It has been a great experience, I think we have really worked with our students and prepared them for the future," Jackson said.