G-A spearheads new county cyber school

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

In an effort to stem the flow of students to for-profit cyber schools, and to add money to its coffers, the Greencastle-Antrim School District forged new territory last week.  On May 19 the full panel of the school board agreed to enter into an agreement with Chambersburg, Waynesboro and Fannett-Metal to form a consortium to share services. If the other districts also approve, the Franklin Virtual Academy will be the first joint project.

Todd Tritle, the Blended Schools coordinator since the district started that online learning opportunity eight years ago, addressed the board on the new plan.

"It's a perfect solution for these economic times," he said.

Data suggested that the use of online learning increased 30 percent each year, and G-A would keep on top of the trend with FVA. The groundwork was already in place to provide an education equitable to the classroom experience, with the goal of bringing back G-A students who were enrolled in other cyber schools, and to retain the students who were already in Blended Schools or looking at options. FVA would use the current curriculum, frequently updated; use Pennsylvania-certified teachers, all employed in the district; and allow students to spend part of the day on campus.

Tritle's technology duties would change as he became the coordinator for FVA. All participating schools would contribute to his salary and he would no longer handle G-ASD's website and other responsibilities. They would be picked up by other people. Each school district would name a liason to handle enrollments, determine special needs students, publicize news, and establish reporting procedures. In addition, students would be assigned teachers from their own districts. Manito School in Kauffman would be the instructor vendor to check credentials and clearances for the teachers.

Savings to G-ASD would come in two ways.

"The stipends have to change," Tritle said. With Blended Schools, teachers were paid $36.37 per hour, potentially earning $1,400 per course. With FVA, it would be $500 for a one credit class per semester, and $350 for a half credit class.

G-ASD would not have to pay the $8,000 expense per student it now remits to the cyber schools, or the $12-15,000 for special needs students. If they enrolled in FVA, the maximum expense to the district would be $5,100 per year. In addition, G-A could benefit from Chambersburg's purchasing power, the large system now paying $1.5 million a year to cyber schools. The four districts could get better prices on required service fees.

"We'll make money on the deal," said superintendent Dr. C. Gregory Hoover.

He also expressed satisfaction that the districts had worked out the details in advance. "Forming this consortium is a giant step for Franklin County," he explained. "Traditionally it has not always been easy to work together."

Director of Education Bob Crider said that while G-ASD had always had more pupils enrolled in Blended Schools than the remote ones, there were rewards to staying local. The students would receive G-A diplomas, could meet with teachers one-on-one for tutoring, and could take regular classes in the buildings, including specials.

"We're trying to make ours the best around."