Originally published Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 01:38p.m.

COTTONWOOD -- The students in the Mingus Online Academy have one thing in common - they don't go to school. Not one with bricks and mortar anyway.

But the reasons they are taking classes over the Internet are wide-ranging and not what most people assume.

There are about one dozen, full-time students currently taking classes at Mingus High School's Online Academy. More than 60 other Mingus students are taking one of more classes over the internet.

One student is taking the online classes because she needs advanced placement physics, psychology and statistics classes to get into Stanford University that Mingus does not offer.

Another student is pregnant and decided to continue education off campus.

Another student had cancer and had to spend a lot of time being treated in Boston and couldn't come to class.

These examples were given by the energetic and enthusiastic Director of the Mingus Online Academy Jason Teague, who is also the art teacher at Mingus High School.

The best thing about the on-line program, explained Teague, is that kids who wouldn't graduate from high school, are earning their degrees.

Teague said some students have health issues that keep them homebound, emotional or behavioral issues, others have day care needs, others have to help take care of their families and get jobs during the day. Other students need classes that Mingus does not offer.

Students who don't graduate from with their class can take on-line classes and still earn a high school diploma from Mingus Union High School, Teague said.

The flip side is that so many parents and students think on-line is easier and "it's not." The online program is "self-motivated and self-paced" and requires a certain level of maturity. They need to be "masters of managing time."

The way the program works, the full-time students are expected to put in 30-hours a week of course work.

Teachers at Mingus High School are assigned to oversee each student in each online class, which are purchased, pre-made, nationally-approved curriculum courses, Teague said. The student does all the coursework at home or at a provided computer at school by themselves.

Then students are required to take the final exam in front of the assigned teacher and if they fail the monitored final exam, they fail the class, Teague said. This proves whether the student actually learned the material in the online class, he said.

Some students use online classes to graduate high school early, while other students can use the academy to catch up on classes and graduate up to age 22 with a Mingus High School diploma.

No one has taken online classes for the entire four years of the 4-year-old program yet. One student will graduate with three years of online classes however, Teague said.

Technically, the Mingus Online Academy is a separate school from Mingus High School under the Mingus High School Union District, according to MHSUD Superintendent Paul Tighe.

But even the full-time Online Academy students work with Mingus High School teachers, participate in high school sports and functions and graduate with a Mingus High School diploma. Most online students right now are hybrid students, explained Tighe, taking traditional classes as well as online classes.

But local high school students do have the option taking online classes through several national companies on their own without the support of Mingus staff, he continued.

The Mingus online program gives them the option of taking online classes, but still keep in contact with a school's support, he said.

Otherwise, students could just take online classes on their own, he added. "We'd rather have the kids who are on-line, with us."

Tighe had no problem expressing his opinion that he considered a traditional classroom experience "superior" over the online experience. But online offers an option for students who many otherwise not graduate from high school.

The academy's director, Teague, has been nominated as a Yavapai County Cross Grades Specialist Teacher of the Year, Tighe pointed out.

Tighe said having teachers keep in contact with the students who are online is extremely valuable to the program's success. "Jason interacts with kids," he added.

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