Should Local School Districts Open Their Own Cyber Schools?
Neshannock Township School District is offering its own online learning academy to compete with other nonprofit and for-profit cyber charter schools.
Reasons vary as to why people decide to enroll their children in cyber schools.
For some, it's to avoid disciplinary and behavior problems they feel are rampant in the brick-and-mortar school. Others feel their child is not thriving in public school and choose cyber school instead of charter, private or parochial options.
Regardless of the reason, almost 30,000 students in Pennsylvania are being served by cyber schools, according to the Commonwealth Foundation. Cyber schools remain controversial, though, in terms of real student success, costs and the money they drain from public schools.
Neshannock Township School District, located just north of New Castle, seems to have come up with a way to keep that money in-house while still providing students residing in the district with an online learning option.
According to a video on the district website, Neshannock School District Online Learning Academy for grades K-12 is an "extention of district's educational offerings." Students who enroll and live in Neshannock can get support services and use district resources because they are close to home. The cyber students stay on track with instruction at the school and can participate in the district's extracurricular activities.
They even have live tutors available from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. At the end, they also get a Neshannock diploma. But best of all for Pittsburgh area residents, they accept the state's opportunity scholarship money available to students in "failing" districts.
Posters for the online learning academy have made their way as far south as the Woodland Hills School District. One has been hanging in the Kuhn's Market bulletin board in Wilkins Township for more than a week.
Woodland Hills School Board member Tara Reis blogged on Patch earlier this year and said that since the 2005-06 school year, her district has shelled out more than $47 million for charter and cyber charter schools, but been reimbursed only $7.5 million of that. The 2011-12 school year cost Woodland Hills $12 million with $0 reimbursement, Reis said.
A district-run online academy might keep some of that money at home for Woodland Hills and other districts in western Pennsylvania. It would also allow students to feel more a part of the district in which they live.
Gateway School District in Monroeville already has the Gateway Cyber Academy for grades 9-12. Seneca Valley also instituted its own cyber school.
So, do you see a district-run online academy as a way for your school district to keep from losing money as the next generation increasingly turns to cyberspace vs. classrooms?
Take our poll and let us know why in the comments section.