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Miami-Dade Online Academy Lets Students Take Classes on Their Own Time

Parental involvement is required in the program.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Michelle Espinosa dreams of vaulting to the top of the gymnastics world. She goes to Miami-Dade Online Academy, so she takes all of her classes on her own time.The online academy allows students to literally be at school wherever they can take their laptops. It also lets them go at their own pace, which is often accelerated. (Published Monday, Aug 26, 2013)

    Michelle Espinosa dreams of vaulting to the top of the gymnastics world.

    "I'm hoping maybe to go to the Olympics in 2016 and maybe get a college scholarship," she said.

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    To get there, the eighth grader who trains alongside Olympic medalist Danell Leyva, spends every day in the gym, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m School starts when she gets home.

    She goes to Miami-Dade Online Academy, so she takes all of her classes on her own time.

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    "I really like it because it's really flexible with my schedule," she said.

    "You can take any course that you can take at a regular school on line, they're all available," said Richard Benvenuti, the Miami-Dade School District official who helps run the program.

    The online academy allows students to literally be at school wherever they can take their laptops. It also lets them go at their own pace, which is often accelerated.

    "When you're finished with a class, you can go ahead and move to the next class, in a regular school you don't have that option," Benvenuti said.

    Parental involvement is required in the program. Michelle's mom and dad take turns supervising. They're called learning coaches. When they get home from work, they go back to work, acting as surrogate teachers.

    "We really don't remember what relaxing is about,we don't have that luxury," said Katherine Espinosa, her mother.

    The curriculum is rigorous, the bar is set high, and online academy student Tyler Harriman, also a young gymnast in full-time training, wouldn't have it any other way.

    "You have to be able to push yourself and that's one of the main things about online school, you have to learn how to say you have to do the school work, to be really slef-motivated," the 9th grader said.

    In Espinosa's case, her grades didn't tumble when she went to the online academy. In fact, she's earning straight As and got two fives on her FCATs, which is the highest score.

    "it's difficult, takes 100 percent support, but it works," she said.

    Online school and full-time sports is a balancing act, but Espinosa says there's one undisputed benefit:

    "Well I don't have homework because it's all homework," she said.

    Right now, she has 220 virtual classmates in the academy. Enrollment for this year is closed, but anyone interested in the online academy can check it out, online by clicking here.

    The Broward County School District has a nearly identical program, and the state of Florida runs a similar online school called Florida Virtual School.