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Haleyann Hart practices dance for almost 20 hours a week, but she’s not worried about getting to school on time. For Hart, 16, her classroom is as close as her home computer.
Hart, a senior next fall, has been enrolled at the Clark County School District’s Nevada Learning Academy, an online high school and middle school, for three years. She and several thousand other Las Vegas students are embracing technology to get their high school diplomas.
But for Hart, it's about giving her enough time to practice to achieve her goal of dancing on Broadway.
"The flexibility of studying online has taught me to manage my time more wisely," Hart said. "We also have brick-and-mortar classrooms available to us at VegasPBS, which lets me meet with tutors or teachers any time I need to."
An online education is an option for Hart and other students who work in the entertainment industry, requiring them to fulfill their educational requirements during nontraditional school hours. It also opens up opportunities to students who have been bullied or struggle in a regular school environment.
Although there is no question online learning is changing the face of education, critics say many of these programs produce poor academic results due to lax parental and school oversight. And, cheating has plagued some online programs.
Michael Butler, assistant principal of Nevada Learning Academy, said online education is a choice for parents and students, just as a magnet school or technical academy is a choice.
"Just as with a magnet school, students need to apply," Butler said. "We don't want to set up a student for failure. If it's not doable than the student won't attend."
Nevada Learning Academy is the result of the school district merging the academy for Individual Study and Virtual High School. Butler said the new school will offer online classes to middle school as well as high school students.
Butler said he expects 150 middle school students to take part in the 2014-15 school year, along with 700 high school students in the online and independent study programs. According to the Clark County School District about 5,000 students use online classes for credit achievement, while another 9,000 attend summer school online.
Michael T. Butler, assistant principal with Nevada Learning Academy
Haleyann Hart, student at Nevada Learning Academy
Marcia Cope-Hart, mother of Haleyann Hart
Dr. Vickie Cook, director of the center for online learning, research and service at the University of Illinois, Springfield.