The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 17, 2014

Cyber academy saves Danville Area School District almost $280,000

By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News

DANVILLE — DANVILLE — Nearly $280,000 has been saved this year by the Danville school district’s e-Learning Cyber Academy.

In a presentation to the school board on Feb. 11, cyber academy principal Jen Gurski said the school was saving approximately $278,000 this year by enrolling students whom the district would have previously paid to send to out-of-district programs. The cyber program launched at the start of the school year.

There are currently 27 students enrolled in the program, five are in the special education program. If those five students were instructed outside of the district, Danville would have to pay approximately $84,000 for their courses, Gurski said.

The goal of the cyber school program ultimately is “not to take children out of our schools but to make sure that when children are leaving they’re either selecting us as their method of education or to pull them back” if they previously left for an outside program.

So far, six students have been pulled back to Danville after previously. That has saved the district another $52,000, Gurski said.

Meanwhile, the cost of course work for the cyber program is approximately $35,000, meaning it is more profitable for the district to educate the 27 students in its cyber program than it was to lose those six students.

Students at Danville’s cyber academy can take courses from their computer at home or use classroom space set aside for academy students at the Danville Middle School. Their progress is regularly checked by cyber academy staff to ensure they are learning.

“We are slowly outgrowing our space” at the middle school, Gurski said.

She can’t expand the program with just herself and cyber school counselor Jo’ell Brouse. Gurski told the board she budgeted for an additional teacher for the cyber program next year.

There are currently 27 children in grades kindergarten through fifth who live within the district and attend third-party cyber school programs. A consideration for the cyber program going forward is how to bring these students back to the district so Danville does not have to pay to send them to outside programs, Gurski said.

School board members praised Gurski and her staff for her handling of the new cyber academy.

“It seems like what you’re doing is paying for itself,” said board member Joe Stemm. Bringing in an additional teacher would not be so much an expense, he said, as it would be a way to generate additional revenue for the district.

You have exceeded our expectations, added board president Allan Schappert.

Several parents of cyber school students were also in attendance and complimented the cyber program.

“I cannot tell you how wonderful this program has been for my son,” said one mother. It’s not going to be for every child, she said, as she has three other children who all enjoy being at schools within Danville. For her son, though, “it’s been a godsend.”

Email comments to rstoneback@thedanvillenews.com.