In an effort to help Pennsylvania school districts recoup money and keep students in the district, two local parties have teamed up to offer districts the ability to launch their own cyber schools.
The Learning Lamp and In-Shore Technologies, a Johnstown, Pa.-based technology support company, are offering Blended Learning Technologies (BLT), which provides curriculum, teachers, hardware, and tech support for half the cost districts pay when a student enrolls in one the state’s 13 cyber charter schools.
Currently, when parents enroll their child in a cyber charter school, the resident district no longer has any responsibility for the education of that child, but is responsible for paying that child’s tuition. That can range from $10,000 to $18,000 depending on the needs of the child.
“This is truly a win for school districts,” said Heidi Rizkalla, the Learning Lamp’s education director. “Not only can schools now control the content and course options for their cyber students, they can save a significant amount of money.”
BLT uses curriculum from the nonprofit blendedschools.net, which is aligned with state academic standards.
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The online classes are taught by qualified state teachers, and the Learning Lamp—which has worked for years with school districts across the state providing full-year and credit-recovery courses—is responsible for providing teachers.
In-Shore Technologies provides all the technology such as computers, routers, and printers and addresses any technical issues that should arise.
Students who enroll in BLT will receive a diploma from their home district and will be able to participate in all extracurricular and club activities and sports in the district.
“Districts can monitor students and see their progress,” Rizkalla said. “They are fully invested and have access to these kids, so this is another way to educate and an extension of that school district.”
Conemaugh Township School District created its own cyber academy this past school year, and Superintendent Gary Buchsen said it’s been a positive addition and something he encourages other districts to consider.
“In the spring of 2011, we had 38 students enrolled in state cybers, and we have been able to get that number down to 15,” he said. That means Conemaugh Township now loses less money in state aid.