Philadelphia group pitches online charter school

A proposed new Philadelphia charter school promises to drastically cut down on maintenance expenses, if approved: The school will not require a building at all.

A group of veteran teachers and administrators have developed a plan for a new charter school that would offer all its courses online. High schoolers at the Contact Charter School would be able to log onto the school web site to get assignments, ask questions via eMail, and submit homework assignments electronically. Classes would consist of chat rooms with access restricted to class members.

The charter school would lease computers, complete with modems and internet access, for all of its students to ensure that even financially-challenged students can attend the online institution. Contact’s proposers say their curriculum will focus on projects, not just “staring at a computer screen.”

“There is a need for this for students who have difficulty attending a traditional school,” stated Bob Oberg, a former Philadelphia principal. Oberg added that the online offering would make attending high school more realistic for teen parents, disadvantaged students who must work, children with illnesses, and those released from prison who are having a difficult time assimilating.

The Contact School’s planners presented their plan to the city school board in December, and the board is expected to make a decision about the new charter school in the spring.

One Pennsylvania online charter school is already in its second year. The Susq-Cyber Charter School serves a small group of students who have been home-schooled before high school or who have been diagnosed by a doctor as having “school phobia.”

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