Olathe-based online school students gather for day of community service

OLATHE, Kan. -- They've been in the same classes together since the school year started. Now, some students at one Kansas school are meeting each other face-to-face for the first time.

Kansas Connections Academy is the state's online public school. About 800 kids from all corners of the Sunflower State attend virtual classrooms over the internet.

In recognition of Martin Luther King Day, students traveled to Olathe to perform a variety of public service projects, including: making blankets for the needy, bagging rice for food pantries, and creating dog toys for animal shelters across the state.

This field trip is an important opportunity for kids to socialize with those they only know through technology.

"Our students get to connect with their teachers in a virtual classroom," school principal Mandi Brazill said. "We can turn cameras and microphones on. We talk to our students on a regular basis. They will talk to a teacher as often as they want and at a minimum at least once a week. So our students really do get a chance to connect not just with each other, it’s just in a different setting, but also with their teachers."

A lot of parents who want to home school their children, but don't feel they're qualified to teach all subjects, choose this online public school, which is free to any Kansas resident. It's partnered with the Elkhart, Kansas, school district.

Other kids who travel for sports or are limited because of illness also find the virtual classrooms to be a better option.

The online school has a high graduation rate and some students receive college scholarships.

As part of National School Choice Week, parents and students told FOX 4 they're grateful to have an education option they believe is a better fit for them.

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