School Districts Go Online To Compete With Cyberschools

With another starting in January, 11 school districts have an in-house cyber school program in York County. The programs allow the districts to make sure students have proper accountability according to school officials. They also said the students’ diplomas carry the same weight no matter the medium of learning. Additionally, the school officials say their own programs can decrease their expenses to about half of what it costs to pay cyber school tuition, because they can operate the programs efficiently while keeping pension and salary costs inside the district with some districts enjoying success.

While seeing a rise in the number of students who elect to enroll in the district’s version of online education, the Dover Area School District has kept its external cyber school enrollment from rising markedly. In the past two years, enrollment in the Southern York County School District’s program overtook enrollment in outside cyber schools.

According to Nikelle Snader of NBC10 Philadelphia, in an email, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Tim Eller said that tuition for non-special education students ranges from about $6,400 to more than $16,000 across the state; that tuition is paid by the school district the student would attend if not enrolled at a cyber-school. For this school year, children who have learning disabilities have tuition rates between $12,000 and as high as $41,595.

It would be more cost-effective for the district when students take advantage of Central’s own cyber school program according to spokeswoman for the Central York School District Julie Romig. She said the motivation for starting Central York Cyber Academy in the 2011-2012 school year was saving the district funding.

At a town hall meeting in September, Superintendent Eric Holmes said that the York City School District budgets about $10,000 per cyber education student and up to $22,000 for students with special needs. In November the board approved the start of Bearcat Cyber Academy for the beginning of January as the city district does not have an in-house program.

By adding just a few students to its enrollment through the cyber school option, Holmes said the district cyber school program would “break even”, giving the district a chance to regain some funds lost from the 300 children in York who attend outside cyber schools.

As assistant superintendent at Southern York County School District, Sandra Lemmon put it, the district began offering a cyber-school option in the 2010-2011 school year.

“We knew we needed to give our kids options,” Lemmon said.

Students are able to learn on a variety of platforms with the rise of technology according to Lemmon. However, he said that unlike other cyber school programs, Southern York Digital Academy students are held to the same standards as students in traditional classrooms.

Superintendent Robert Krantz of the Dover Area School District said that Dover Cyber Academy is seeing success as it blends traditional classroom learning with online lessons.

Krantz said he is “quite proud” the district has been able to hold the line on number of students leaving the district for external cyber school options since the in-house program began in the 2008-2009 school year.