Jon Austria — The Daily TimesNew Mexico Connections Academy teacher Yvette Martinez gives a presentation on Wednesday at the Courtyard by Marriott in
Jon Austria — The Daily Times New Mexico Connections Academy teacher Yvette Martinez gives a presentation on Wednesday at the Courtyard by Marriott in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — One of the state's virtual charter schools held a meeting Wednesday to discuss how the school operates and answered questions parents had about the school's curriculum and programs.

The New Mexico Connections Academy held an informational meeting in Farmington as part of a tour through cities including Albuquerque and Gallup.

High school science teacher Yvette Martinez led a presentation covering topics like how live, internet-based sessions are used by teachers for instruction and the amount of parental involvement that is required for students to thrive.

Martinez said the parents ask a wide variety of questions about how the school offers a public education online.

"There isn't really any common, specific questions parents ask. It's more they want the information," Martinez said. "A lot of them are interested in accelerated and gifted courses. Some on the other end want to know about our special education resources."

The Sante Fe-based Connections Academy is entering its second year of operation.

Connections spokeswoman Sue Kern-Fleischer said the school had an enrollment of 500 students for its first year and its charter is capped at 2,000 students. Current enrollment figures were unavailable as the school enrolls students for the upcoming school year.

The New Mexico Virtual Academy based in Farmington has an enrollment cap of 500 students as it enters its third year of operation.

Head administrator Deborah Jackson said the flexibility the virtual schools provide and the rigor of their curriculum is what makes the schools stand out. Students can pursue activities like gymnastics and rodeo while working on school work at night.

"The benefits is (students) still have that public education, they are still certified New Mexico teachers," Jackson said.

Martinez said the schools provide an option for home school students who wish to keep the environment of being at home and having a teacher as a parent becomes more of a coach or facilitator.

"Independence is another key trait that helps students succeed that they are independent and that they are motivated in their education," Martinez said.

Jackson said parental involvement is also important to a student's success.

During the meeting, Martinez discussed students in the elementary grades will require more parental involvement in their education with more of the coursework completed off the computer.

As students move to middle and high school grade levels, the school work requires more computer use and more responsibility by the student to manage their work and complete assignments.

Catherine Grobler, one of handful of people who attended the meeting, was looking for more information on what the school offers for her son Andrew, a sixth-grader at Mosaic Academy in Aztec.

Grobler said it was interesting to see what options are available for students and liked how the schools made efforts with clubs to keep students socially engaged and the students provide feedback on curriculum.

"The curriculum has a rating scale and the students are super involved on feedback. Teachers can practice reflective teaching," Grobler said.

Grobler said the school might be an option for her son when he enters ninth grade but not as much for him as a middle school student.

"I think it's going to take a certain amount of maturity and it sounds like there has to be an acknowledged coach to be part of monitoring the student and ensuring they are going to be successful and track their assignments," Grobler said.

During the presentation by Martinez, she said the school has a Science Technology Engineering Mathematics focus written into the charter and that's something Grobler was interested in as most of the charter schools with a STEM focus are in the Albuquerque area.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @jkelloggdt.