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Life is different in rural Colorado, with so many more everyday challenges than big-city folks could ever understand.

Instead of worrying about their lifestyle and luxuries, people who live and grow up in the state's sparsely populated areas think first about the basics even survival.

In such an environment, rural school districts are turning to the Internet. By offering classes and programs online, they can attract more students to their districts, even from across the state.

This week's cover story (starting on page 18), which first appeared in High Country News, focuses on the Vilas RE-5 School District in southeastern Colorado. Thanks to its online school and a partnership with a charter school based in suburban Denver, enrollment has exploded in recent years.

More students have brought more scrutiny. Why Vilas and its partner, Hope Online Academy, have shown such poor CSAP scores has amounted to one big point of contention.

But more students have also brought more funding. And that has allowed Vilas RE-5 to survive creating a potential model for other small rural districts, in Colorado and throughout the West.

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