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Chambersburg School Board considers cyber education pilot program

April 13, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A one-year cyber education pilot program aimed at trimming the cost of alternative education programs and perhaps luring students back from cyber schools was adopted this week by the Chambersburg School Board.

"We're looking at nontraditional education in the district approaching $1 million a year," Board President Thomas Orndorf said during the discussion before approving a proposal from Meier and Associates of Chambersburg.

Tuition for the approximately 50 students taking online courses through cyber schools outside the district is about $350,000, said Eric Michael, assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.

The district currently has a contract with Nexuslearning "to meet the needs of those students whose presence within the school environment represents a significant distraction or threat," according to the proposal by Mike Meier, a former administrator at Faust Junior High School. The proposal calls for Nexuslearning becoming "the provider of choice for long-term disciplinary actions, as well as the home and hospital accommodations it currently provides."

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Chambersburg pays for student slots at alternative education programs like Manito Inc. and Boyer Academy. Superintendent Joseph Padasak told the board the district is ending its relationship with Boyer Academy because of transportation and other concerns.

Padasak said the money saved on the 18 slots at Boyer Academy, and reducing the number of other alternative placements, could be used to expand cyber education in the district. The Meier proposal, which the board capped at $50,000 during its initial trial year, would take some students out of alternative classrooms and put them in front of computers in their homes.

Padasak said alternative school placements can cost $10,000 to $20,000 per student. The Meier proposal stated the cost of Nexuslearning is about $4,500 for a 36-week school year and "is a viable option for future placements in lieu of more expensive alternatives."

The proposal stated that if the district intends to re-enroll cyber school students living within the district, an online educational program has to be developed by early summer and publicized.

Karyn Gramata, a retired teacher employed by the district as a long-term substitute, would be coordinator of the program. She is experienced in Nexuslearning for homebound students, according to the proposal.

Todd Tritle, who works with a blended schools program in the Greencastle-Antrim School District, would be retained as an independent contractor, according to the proposal. Blended schools is a system that allows instructional programs from different districts to be accessed on-line.

The proposal also calls for Meier and Associates to arrange for cyber instructors, possibly from district staff, as well as using retired guidance counselors on an hourly basis. The district would provide the technical support to meet the requirements of the cyber education program.

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