Local family finds education solution in online public school

  • Matthew Frye goes online at South Carolina Connections Academy while his mother, Karen, checks the status of his studies.

The Frye family goes to festivals. A lot of festivals.

“We probably go to 15 to 20 festivals a year,” said Karen Frye.

Karen and her husband Bill Frye III own and operate “Frye Baby” traveling concession stand.

Being on the road so much also presents a challenge to educating their son Matthew, 13, and Bill Frye IV.

For Matthew, the Fryes decided to enroll him in South Carolina Connections Academy, a tuition-free, virtual public school.

He has been a student at SCCA since 5-year-old kindergarten and is now in 8th grade.

“For us, it has been a real advantage,” said Karen. “He has access to teachers, live lessons, webmail and chat. He is able to schedule his lessons to be completed. If he is having difficulty, he can take his time until he masters it. There is no limit. There are resources online plus he can access help videos or contact his teachers directly.”

Matthew loves the online academy and doesn’t feel he is missing anything from a regular school environment. In fact, he says he thinks he gets even more attention and opportunity.

“I’ve met a lot of people in the live lesson room and in chat rooms. In some of the classes we are able to ‘hang out’,” said Matthew.

Additionally, the academy has an events coordinator who schedules field trips, dances and proms for its students. “We have a place to meet where we show our student ID and join the group,” said Matthew.

“It is a public school and it has a public school curriculum,” said Karen Frye.

“As a public charter school, South Carolina Connections Academy is committed to meeting the state of South Carolina’s rigorous standards for academic achievement and accountability,” states information provided by the school. “The school uses a variety of tools to track student progress and comply with public school testing requirements, including online and offline assessments, parent interviews and regular follow-up evaluations throughout the year.”

“South Carolina Connections Academy’s teachers are state-certified and available for students via phone, email or in-person meetings at all times. Within Connections Academy’s highly individualized learning system, teachers know their students—whether they need extra help or a new challenge.”

Karen Frye said there are also extra courses available for students. “They offer special classes such as sign language and interest clubs” such as photography and chess.

SCCA has made balancing education and traveling workable for the Fryes. “They have a schedule weeks in advance. He has the opportunity to prepare. When we are gone, Matthew is able to pull up his lessons,” said his mother.

She said the school encourages independence and self-discipline but parents are tasked with following up to make sure their student is progressing.

The family’s investment has been in Matthew’s laptop, a set of microphones, a camera and textbooks – and a good internet connection.

Matthew said he currently has about 25 lessons a week to complete. “Generally I wake up about 7 in the morning and get online about 7:30 or 7:45. I get done about 1 to 1:30 in the afternoon,” he said.

He has portfolios and essays that have to be mailed to teachers as well as online classes and tests.

Currently South Carolina history is his favorite subject. “My least favorite is science, but I really like all my subjects,” he said.

Matthew said his career choices are photography, computer engineering or music – something he enjoys performing at Ghents Branch Baptist Church where his family are members.

He said he has “local friends and virtual friends” and doesn’t think he is missing out on anything at all.

And when he isn’t studying, he is helping work the family’s concession stand. “I am a server, cashier or cook, depending on where I am needed,” he said.

His mom said Matthew “is one of the better funnel cake cooks I know.”

Not only does the family sell at festivals and special events, they are also contracted with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Beaufort County to provide food to disaster volunteers and victims. They were called to help out during Hurricane Matthew. “That was an experience,” said Karen.

“South Carolina Connections makes it possible for us,” said Karen Frye.