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2 free online schools continue to operate in New Mexico

September 1, 2019
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In this photo taken Aug. 23, 2019, Julia Huebert, 13 , and Kaitlin Huebert 12, play at the Metro Verde Splash Pad park in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The sisters attend Pecos Connections Academy, a tuition free online school. (Bethany Freudenthal/Las Cruces Sun-News via AP)
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In this photo taken Aug. 23, 2019, Julia Huebert, 13 , and Kaitlin Huebert 12, play at the Metro Verde Splash Pad park in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The sisters attend Pecos Connections Academy, a tuition free online school. (Bethany Freudenthal/Las Cruces Sun-News via AP)

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Two tuition-free online schools continue to operate in New Mexico despite efforts to close them.

The New Mexico Connections Academy in Santa Fe and Pecos Connections Academy in Carlsbad continue to enroll students to take online classes, the Las Cruces Sun-News reports.

In December 2017, the Public Education Committee voted not to renew New Mexico Connections Academy’s charter following a study that found the school had misspent funds and was failing students. However, the Sun-News reports that NMCA board President Mark Boitano said the school appealed the PEC’s decision and a district judge ruled in favor of the school.

The Santa Fe-based school’s website says it is still enrolling students.

“This decision has allowed the school to remain open to continue serving family across the state while negotiating a new charter renewal with the PEC,” Boitano stated in an email to the Sun-News.

Boitano added in an email to The Associated Press: “New Mexico Connections Academy is part of the Public Education Department audit each year, conducted by an Independent Auditor, and there have never been any reports of mismanaged funds since the school’s inception.”

In 2018, the Carlsbad Municipal School Board voted to launch an investigation against Pecos Connections Academy, citing allegations the school was not meeting student and personnel needs. School leader Jed Duggan says a legislative committee for virtual schools looked into the allegations, but confirmed the school was in compliance.

Pecos Connections Academy opened its virtual doors in 2016, with a current statewide enrollment of 1,092 students.

Proponents of virtual schools say their structures give students flexibility and help rural students who live miles away from a physical school. They also give some struggling students an alternative, defenders say.

“Many of our kids come to us struggling in the public schools maybe academically or socially,” Duggan said. “Some of them have experienced bullying, some of the parents in the school are looking for more involvement and school safety is a big issue for some of our parents.”

Julia Huebert, 13, of Las Cruces, said she’s enrolled at Pecos Connections Academy because it offers flexibility in her schedule.

“School is, you do do learning, but there’s a lot of the teacher yelling at the students and standing in line and waiting for school to start,” she said. “If I could just start school as soon as I wake up, I could finish a lot earlier and I’m still doing the same amount of learning.”

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Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, http://www.lcsun-news.com

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