Downingtown, Pa. — Sept. 8
Instead of hopping on a school bus this September, an estimated 27,000 students across Pennsylvania flipped open their laptops and entered the virtual classroom of one of Pennsylvania’s 11 cyber charter schools or one of a growing number of public school districts offering their own virtual academies. In southeastern Pennsylvania alone, at least 16 public school districts began offering a cyber option this September.
“There is a growing movement in school districts across Pennsylvania to come up with alternatives to cyber charter schools,” said Alan Slobojan of the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU). “School district virtual academies fill the gap between brick and mortar public schools and cyber charter schools by providing online classes to attract students back to their local school districts (from cyber charter schools).”
Slobojan oversees the CCIU’s Brandywine Virtual Academy (BVA). Started in 2006, the BVA gave students in traditional public schools the opportunity to take courses online for credit recovery or summer school flexibility.
But over the past five years, said Slobojan, the BVA has evolved into an alternative to cyber schools, one that combines the benefits of virtual education with school district services, such as an official school district diploma, individualized access to district teachers and guidance counselors, and participation in co-curricular and extracurricular activities. This has come to be known as blended learning, with students able to take classes in school and online.
Now, a growing number of school districts are taking this one step further and offering a full-time virtual academy to students.
According to Slobojan, five school districts in Chester County, nine school districts in Montgomery County and two school districts in Delaware County are using BVA to establish their own virtual academies.
Each district approaches the program differently: “Several districts are opting for the blended model; others are creating their own full-time virtual academies,” said Slobojan. “And a few are using virtual learning in lieu of alternative placements.”
Source: Chester County Intermediate Unit