In an effort to provide more options for students, the West York administration is recommending they be allowed to take online classes through the school district, instead of leaving for a cyber school.
The school board will vote next week on the approval of West York Open Campus, which will allow for three options for students to consider. Students can learn completely online from home, they can learn online in a structured classroom environment at the school, or they can blend options by taking some regular classes and others either from home or in the open campus computer lab at the school.
Pilot program: The district piloted a program this year with 16 students and would start next year with spaces for 30 to 40 students, superintendent Emilie Lonardi said.
The program would only be available to high school students living in the district; the curriculum would be aligned with state standards and the district's curriculum, according to board documents.
A teacher was moved from the alternative education program to oversee the pilot program this year. The goal is to offer students an alternative to traditional classroom learning, before they leave for outside cyber programs the district pays for because it's responsible for the student's tuition, said assistant superintendent Carol Powell.
Though the district would like to see some students come back from outside cyber school programs, the focus is on offering options to the students still in the building, she added.
"Where you catch them is before they ever leave," Powell said.
The details: The proposal for next year includes using one computer lab in the high school, with one teacher and two part-time aides. The goal is to have the lab centrally located in the school building so students coming and going don't disrupt other classrooms, Lonardi said.
And the administration has set up rigorous standards for the students: They must apply for the program, then start classes on a probationary one-month basis to make sure they can complete work and do well on assignments. Passing grades for the online courses are 70 percent; if a student falls below that, they might need to go back to traditional classrooms.
The students would use a program called Odysseyware for all of their classes, and parents would have constant access to their child's grades. The district plans to provide a laptop to each student taking classes from home full-time and Internet access if the family doesn't already have a way to get online.
Teachers specializing in math, science or other specific subjects would meet with students in the cyber classroom during the flex period at the end of the day, to answer any questions they might have.
Though some details like specific class size are still in the works, Powell said the need for additional options is important, especially because the district pays between $9,600 and $22,000 for every child who leaves the district for an outside cyber charter school.
"We're going to figure out how to be more flexible," she said.
— Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.