By Robert Stoneback
The Daily Item
MILTON — While the Danville School District explores offering online courses to district students, its officials would not be the first in the region to make the jump to cyberspace.
Since October, Milton Area School District students have had the option to take any of the district’s classes online, and so far, the program has made the grade.
“It’s been very successful for Milton,” said Candy Trate, director of secondary education in the Milton Area School District. Milton has about 30 students enrolled in cyber programs.
Cyber classes are offered in any course offered by the district. “Anything offered in house, we also offer online,” Trate said.
Students enrolled in cyber courses still are eligible to join school clubs and extracurricular activities. They also may have some of their courses taught to them in the brick-and-mortar schools. “They are still a part of our school population, they’re invited to all of our functions,” Trate said.
Since the curriculum is the same for both the online and physical schools, students can easily transition from one to the other if they decide to switch.
There is no specific class time for students enrolled in online courses. They have access to their lessons and assignments at all times, and as long as they complete their work by its due date, they can study at their own pace. Students also can talk directly to tutors via online chat rooms.
Previously, when a student would leave the district to attend a cyber school, Milton would lose track of his or her education. This became a problem if the student later returned to the district, Trate said, because the district could not verify how the student performed.
By offering an in-house cyber program, the district maintains contact with the students and their families. It also keeps the students in the school district, which results in more state funding.
A student’s decision to focus on cyber classes could have to do with family matters, a job, illness or school credit recovery, Trate said.
As for whether a student’s performance is affected by attending classes online or in person, much of that is up to the individual student. “It depends on the individual and the dedication they put forth into the program,” Trate said.
Whether Danville adopts a blended cyber model will depend on its cost, said Dawn Brookhart, curriculum director for the Danville School District. The board will discuss the matter through its budget process to see how feasible cyber classes are.
Keeping students in the district also has been a concern for Danville. The district previously estimated that 40 to 60 students living in the district attend online charter schools instead. Were those students enrolled in the district, Danville would receive approximately $340,000 more in state funding.