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Schools join forces on the Internet

August 30, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN -- Two of Washington County's Christian schools are expanding their learning environments into cyberspace.

Grace Academy and Broadfording Christian Academy are working together beginning this academic year to enhance each school through technology. 

"We are not combining schools, but working diligently to be good stewards so that we may provide a high-quality, biblically based education that will prepare students for the 21st century," said Nikki Bowers, one of the principals at Grace.

The two schools are partnering in the effort under the mantle of the Hagerstown Area Virtual Christian Academy.

It's not on any map, there are no walls, no bricks, no mortar. But the academy is just a computer keystroke away.

"Quite simply, we will be able to offer additional classes to our students," said Bill Wyand, superintendent at BCA. "And the faculty will be able to supplement what they can offer in the classroom -- it's a two-way street."

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Wyand explained that Jack Appleby, administrator at Grace Academy, learned about the Blended Schools Initiative in Pennsylvania and brought it to Washington County.

Through the partnership, the two schools will offer online classes and utilize new technology to enhance the current course offerings in both schools.

In an e-mail, Bowers stressed that the schools are not merging, but instead working in a spirit of collaboration, unity and sharing as they face difficult challenges of moving forward in difficult times.

At Grace, Brian Kelley is youth pastor as well as principal of grades six through 12.

"This opens up more electives, more AP (Advanced Placement) courses and enrichment opportunities for our students," Kelley said.

The beauty of the collaboration with BCA is that both schools will get all the benefits despite limited funds. The cost is being shared by the two academies.

"We are excited about this partnering with Grace, as well as sharing the cost," Wyand said. "We can do the best job in Christian education when we work together."

He hastened to add that in no way is the virtual academy eliminating the day schools. Rather, it is stretching their boundaries.

"This will also benefit our home-schooling families, especially the upper grades," Kelley said.

Wyand added that home-schooled students affiliated with both academies will be able to go online to have their needs met, as well.

Grace Academy is at 13321 Cearfoss Pike, Hagerstown.

Broadfording Christian Academy is at 13535 Broadfording Church Road, Hagerstown.

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