Five students have graduated from Maine's first virtual charter school, Maine Connections Academy, and the students who received their high school diplomas at a small ceremony had never met in person before.
The enrolled students graduating from the Maine Connections Academy said they choose to complete their high school education virtually because the quality of the education they received in their former schools wasn't up to par.
The small Class of 2015 graduates included Spencer William Deissler, 17, Madison C. Dexter, 18, Serena Billie-Jo Gorham, 17; Dakota Rae Pettegrow, 17, and Shaynah-Cherokeigh Raylene Seames, 18.
Bangor Daily News says there was neither a valedictorian nor salutatorian due to the class' size. The four ceremony-attending students achieved a collective GPA of more than 3.0.
Serena Gorham made the switch to online learning because she and her parents were disappointed with the education she was receiving at her assigned school.
After an attempt at homeschooling, Gorham enrolled in the inaugural academic year at the Maine Connections Academy.
"It's awesome to be part of something that's hopefully going to grow," Gorham said. "I want to be sure each student has their talents shown and isn't hidden in a big classroom."
Shaynah-Cherokeigh Seames highlighted at the ceremony that the virtual school enabled her to learn at a pace she deemed comfortable and allowed her to invest time in interests she loved like fishing and hunting.
She explained that her learning style was different and virtual classes helped her speed up her learning at a level challenging enough for her.
"I was always getting bored in class, and I didn't want to do my work," Seames said.
For its second year running, the virtual-only school will have a Class of 2016 ten times larger than this year's.
Karl Francis, principal at the Maine Connections Academy, said that enrollment is satisfactory and shared his excitement about the Academy's growth. The first graduation is an important milestone for the virtual charter school. Principal Francis said:
"It sort of puts us on the map as significant and that we're here and we're strong and then it's a great option for the students in Maine."
In 2015 the Academy had 270 enrolled students. For 2016, the number of students is expected to be nearly 400.
Back in 2011, Maine lawmakers allowed charter schools to offer virtual high school classes. In total six charter schools offered virtual classes, but Maine Connections Academy was the first and only one without any physical classrooms, Portland Press Herald reports.
Another charter school and a virtual school, Maine Virtual Academy, are to open in time for the 2015-2016 school year, according to the Portland Press Herald.