VAN BUREN (KFSM) -- The River Valley Virtual Academy opens in August and is already drawing in quite a bit of attention from potential students and parents.
The tuition-free online school teaches classroom curriculum with a high-tech spin along with home-schooling features and scheduling that caters to anyone.
"We didn't feel like we were meeting the needs of all students because we saw some families that were providing their own education," Van Buren School District superintendent Harold Jeffcoat said. "We went out and decided we would create this model and it's been overwhelming the amount of support and the amount of positive feedback we have received."
During development, educators wanted to provide a type of education that would appeal to all families.
"There are kids in and out of the hospital, kids that are in sports, or kids that maybe just don't do well in a school setting or a classroom," parent Tricia German said. "I think this is a really big deal for them."
The virtual academy students will use a software called Connexus, which features plans that allow the student to watch lessons as many times as needed. Testing can be completed more than once if the student needs additional guidance. Tutoring will also be available from 6 a.m. to midnight for assistance.
For current Van Buren High School student, Emily Ebert, she is looking for a new way to learn.
"I'm a visual learner," Ebert said. "I have an amazing math teacher now, but she talks about it. I need to see it and this will help me see it more."
The online school will be fully operated by the Van Buren School District and follows along with the traditional school schedule. Students enrolled in the virtual academy will be able to participate in regular school activities or enroll in a specific art or physical education course on campus.
"Student in the River Valley Virtual Academy will have an opportunity to participate in all extracurricular activities and clubs we have to offer here in our school district," Jeffcoat said.
This helps keep the social aspect of traditional education available.
"All my friends are in band, so I don't feel like I'm missing the friend part and the social part," Ebert said. "But, I'll be able to focus more on by the education here, but be able to go to band with my friends."
Parents said they feel comfortable knowing they now have more options.
"We thought, 'let's give it a try,' German said. "We can still be at home with [our daughter], still give her the attention that she needs, still let her work one on one at her own pace. We're already paying public school taxes so let's try this and if we decide to move to public school, it's a super easy transition into an actual classroom."
The virtual academy is considered a public school program which will follow the guidelines set for Arkansas public schools. Along with the free tuition, textbooks will be sent to students free of charge.
The application process is available to all students in Arkansas.
A two week orientation is required before students' applications will be processed.
For more information about the River Valley Virtual Academy, visit the school's website.
You can also contact the Van Buren School District for more information.