BOISE -- Students across the Treasure Valley are heading back to school. However, not all of them will step foot inside a traditional classroom. Experts say more students than ever before are taking classes online.
Leaders of INSPIRE, the Idaho Connections Academy say about 650 students across Idaho are taking part in the educational program this year. That's up about 10 percent from last year.
Some students, like 11-year-old Kenna Ursenbach, use online learning in order to pursue sports and other activities beyond academics. In Kenna's case, that means training for gymnastics.
"I go five days a week," said Kenna of her training schedule.
The level-9 gymnast has been pushing her mind and body since she was 7-years old. She's already an accomplished athlete training with Olympic gymnasts and choreographers.
"I'm working for Elite," she told KTVB.
Kenna trains for 35 hours a week at the gym. Her family told us because of that rigorous schedule, it can be hard to fit in traditional public school hours. That's why an online program is the right fit.
"It had a very rigorous curriculum," said Kenna's mother, Donna Ursenbach, of the program they eventually chose.
INSPIRE CONNECTIONS ACADEMY
Kenna is enrolled in INSPIRE, the Idaho Connections Academy. It's an online education program serving Idaho students. Donna Ursenbach said although she supports her daughter's Olympic dreams, school is also a top priority.
"She loves it. She loves logging on, she loves the layout and how it's set-up," said Donna Ursenbach.
"I think I learn more in Connections Academy," said Kenna. She logs onto the online program in between morning and afternoon practices. She says the school is convenient because she can complete assignments whenever she has time, including on nights and weekends.
"You have the same subjects and it just makes it really easy because you're able to talk to the teachers whenever," said Kenna.
Students can work at their own pace and the program is free, but Kenna's mother admits it's not for every student.
"It works for us. It's a lot of hard work, but she has to be the one who does it," said Donna Ursenbach.
Kenna told us she approaches her school work like she approaches gymnastics.
"I just try to go step-by-step and just think about every little thing," she said.
Students can still choose to take online classes through this particular program. Enrollment for the current school year is open through November 1.
If you'd like to learn more about INSPIRE Connections Academy, click here.