In an effort to provide more options for students, the West York school board voted Tuesday to allow them to take online classes through the school district, instead of leaving for a cyber school.
The school board voted unanimously to approve West York Open Campus, which will give students three options to consider: learn completely online from home, learn online in a structured classroom environment at the school, or blend options by taking some regular classes and others online, 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 will start next year with spaces for 30 to 40 students, Superintendent Emilie Lonardi said.
The program is available to high school students living in the district; the curriculum is 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, said assistant superintendent Carol Powell. The district is responsible for paying students' charter school tuitions, which can cost between $9,000 and $22,000, she said.
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 plan 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 located near the school office, where students coming and going don't disrupt other classrooms, Lonardi said.
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, he or she might need to go back to traditional classrooms.
The students will use a program called Odysseyware for all of their classes, and parents will 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.
The open campus will also mark the end of an alternative education class at night, Lonardi said. The district already uses the online software for that class, which means there won't be additional costs for the open campus program, she said. The district will save $11,000 next year by eliminating the night class, she said.
Teachers specializing in math, science or other specific subjects will meet with students in the cyber classroom during the flex period at the end of the day to answer any questions they might have.
— Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.