Going to school is a daily routine for most children. Wake up, get ready, and wait for the bus and head to school for eight hours a day. For 15-year-old John Duey, the daily routine is much different.
John wakes up early in the morning, but not to go to school. Instead, he helps out with daily chores of herding cattle on horseback and making sure everything is running smoothly at his family’s ranch outside of town.
While he’s not tending to the family ranch, he goes to school online through a public school called Arizona Connections Academy based in Gilbert. John has been going to online school on and off since the third grade.
“We’ve been through ACA for the third year,” said John’s mother, Ruby Duey. “We like this school better.”
ACA is a free online public school that serves Arizona students in grades K – 12. Students are able to complete all of their coursework online, and instead of going to a physical school, they can work from home or any location.
ACA has reached their enrollment capacity of 2,500 students. When it comes to students graduating from ACA, some finish earlier than others if they are willing to work hard and complete the coursework, but it’s not the norm to graduate early.
“Our program is rigorous and each semester course is designed to take students 18 weeks to complete,” ACA Principal Kerri Wright said.
When it comes to students asking their teachers for help, they can contact them via phone or through a synchronous online lesson, which is where teachers can take the extra time and explain certain material to the students. If a teacher notices a student having trouble with lessons, then the teacher will reach out to the student to provide the extra help.
Students attending ACA also have the opportunity to participate in technical education classes that can help them explore different career opportunities. Some of the technical education courses ACA offers are introduction to criminal justice, Java programming, medical terminology and introduction for early childhood education.
Ruby said one of the reasons they went through an online school is to avoid peer pressure. Their older son went through some obstacles during his time in public school, and the parents decided it’s not worth it this time around.
“He (John) doesn’t have to worry about if what he’s wearing is cool or not,” Ruby said.
Wright said she has seen students gain confidence that they didn’t have in their previous schools because of bullying or being “a little fish in a big pond.”
John enjoys the convenience the school offers. He is able to start school at any time of the day. ACA has many students that have a life outside of school, which makes it difficult to attend a regular public school. Students are so active that they desire the flexibility ACA offers, Wright said.
“I don’t have to go to school,” John said. “I can do whatever I want.”
Wright said she’s seen a variety of success stories from her students in her time at ACA. Students have been able to go far in their sports career, acting career, and singing career. Wright says some students have gone to go play collegiate sports and thrive in their acting careers after graduation.
Outside of school John participates in rodeo events. During the summer he visits other ranches and helps out those families with their cattle.
Although John still has a bit of time left in school, he hopes to be a cowboy and take over his family’s ranch after he graduates.