The Bald Eagle Area Cyber Academy was started eight years ago as a way to help serve students who were struggling in school.
“We wanted to find the best way to support them and give them an alternative,” school facilitator Margie Fisher said.
The program is open to any school-age student in the district.
“It serves those students who are employed during the day or homebound, and can’t make the traditional school day,” Superintendent Jeff Miles said. “It’s good for kids who quit school early and are offered that opportunity to bounce back with a good, solid education that can fit their lifestyle.”
The program started with four students. By 2013-14, it enrolled 28. This year, the district expects about 35, Fisher said.
But it’s not a one-size-fits-all program.
Students interested in online courses are put through an interview process to tailor the program to meet their needs.
“We make sure this is what they and their families really want,” Fisher said. “We come up with a plan ... and stress the importance of personal discipline.”
At the Bald Eagle Area Cyber Academy, online students are required to log on to the site and sign in by 9 a.m. every weekday, Fisher said.
Students check in again at 3 p.m. daily to give their teachers a progress report on their studies.
“What I feel is that it’s enough work to substantiate the day, and I’m seeing a tremendous amount of success in the elementary level because of parent interaction,” Fisher said.
Bald Eagle Area offers time for students to work one on one with a tutor.
“Students and their families are aware of the lack of social life that comes with a program like this,” Fisher said. “That’s always going to be a family choice.”
...as cyberschools are growing in popularity, school administrators say in-class teaching will never cease.
“It’s something that will always be in demand,” Fisher said. “Not every cyber program is fit for everyone. There is that need for students to have social interaction with their peers and teachers, so a cyber program will never fully replace the classroom.”
Fisher said cyber programs were made to enhance education and offer an alternative for kids who don’t fit the classroom mold.
All online students who participate in the cyber programs through their districts are able to participate in school athletics and extracurricular activities and are able to walk the stage with their graduating class. Each cyberstudent also receives a diploma upon graduation.
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*Information reprinted with permission. Story written by former CDT reporter and current BEA public relations specialist Brit Milazzo.