District looks at cyber services

Changes could be coming to the way the Warren County School District provides cyber school services.

“We are starting to explore additional opportunities for providing cyber school to our students,” Interim Director Patricia Hawley-Horner said to the Curriculum, Instruction and Technology Committee on Monday night.

The first effort the district has undertaken in this regard is reviewing the Virtual Learning Network, a cyber school provider that will build courses to match the district curriculum.

“(In) looking at possible solutions for cyber services, (we are) noticing that students are not receiving the level of credits they need to,” said Misty Weber, principal of the district’s cyber program.

Currently, the district purchases cyber courses one credit at a time from the Intermediate Unit. The IU “has 16 different (course) providers that we go through. We need to start using our curriculum to teach our kids. Through Virtual Learning Network, they can partner with us to build courses to match our curriculum.”

Once of the problems the current cyber program faces is declining enrollment. “We’ve lost 100 (students) to other Pennsylvania cyber charter schools,” Weber said.

When a student enrolls in another cyber program, funding the district would have received for that student goes to the cyber entity.

The root cause of that problem appears to be the quality of the district’s product.

“What we have been offering isn’t the best that we can,” Weber explained. “Ultimately, I think we need to use our educators to build these online courses to teach our kids (but we’re) not there at this point. (We) need to encompass what our students need.”

Committee chair Dr. Paul Yourchisin asked how the financials compare between VLN and the IU.

Weber explained that the average student is only completing four full courses per academic year currently. “We want to see them get seven credits,” she said.

If a student completed seven credits through the IU, VLN would present a $500 savings per student.

The IU currently charges $3,920 for a full course load plus $1,000 for the technology. A full course load through VLN would cost $4,250 and they would provide textbooks, something the IU currently does not do.

Cost savings could be realized in other ways, as well.

“We can try to market to get some of our students back to get that money back,” Weber said. The district could also save on NovaNet licenses that would not be needed if a program like VLN was implemented.

“We’re not winning against the cyber-charter schools,” Weber said. “That’s a lot of money that’s starting to seep out. I think that we’ve got to start taking a more proactive solution to keep students in our district.”