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School board OKs cyber school program

September 14, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - The Chambersburg Area School District has taken a small step into cyber education, offering online courses to students through its newly created Chambersburg Academy.

The school board this week approved a one-year pilot program with Nexus Corp. to provide online instruction to students that are homebound by long-term illness or injury; students that have been expelled or placed in alternative education; and those already enrolled in other cyber school programs. The academy program will have up to 24 elementary and secondary students this year with 16 currently enrolled, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Services Eric Michael told the board Wednesday.

"We'd like to keep it small to make sure we're delivering a quality program," Michael said at the beginning of the school year. The program "uses our curriculum, written by our teachers and using our textbooks," he said.

Students will be provided district computers installed by Nexus at their homes, Michael said. The families are expected to provide Internet access unless they can prove it would be an economic hardship, he said.

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The cost of the program is $5,800 per student, compared to the $7,300 to $14,000 in tuition the district pays for students enrolled in cyber schools. The tuition varies depending on whether a student has special needs, he said. At the beginning of the year, Michael said there were 78 students enrolled in cyber schools.

The per-student cost in the district for regular classroom instruction in the district is about $7,400, he said.

"Our goal is to bring some of those students back," Superintendent Joseph Padasak told the board Wednesday. The district expects to spend about $600,000 this year in tuition to cyber schools based outside the district, he said.

While the district now has a cyber education offering, Michael said recently that students living within the district can still opt for other cyber schools, for which the district must, by law, pay the tuition. As for expelled students, he said is still required to provide them an education.

The academy offers regular education, college prep and honors courses and uses the same grading scale as the district, according to a summary of the program. Secondary students who successfully complete the program and meet graduation requirements will receive a Chambersburg Area Senior High School diploma and may attend graduation.

Students may also participate in extracurricular activities such as clubs and athletics, and may attend the prom.

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