The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

May 2, 2014

Cyber electives open opportunities for Danville students

DANVILLE — Students will have the opportunity to expand their horizons over the summer through new electives offered through Danville’s eLearning initiative.

The summer program, open to students at Danville’s online Cyber Academy as well as in their traditional schools, features electives not available in Danville’s regular classrooms, such as Chinese, electrical engineering, graphic design, art appreciation and sports medicine.

“The goal is to really give kids an opportunity to expand their academic resume and exposure to courses of interest through the eLearning initiative,” said Jen Gurski, Danville Cyber Academy principal.

Summer classes are offered for both high school and middle school students. Other courses offered through the summer enrichment courses include Latin, ancient civilizations, German and biotechnology. Students can study from home or at the Danville Cyber Academy computer lab located at the Danville Middle School.

More information, including how to sign up for summer courses, can be found by logging onto the district’s website at www.danville.k12.pa.us and clicking on “E-Learning Academy — Summer Enrichment Courses” under the “News” section.

The district has the opportunity to offer more diverse classes through the summer enrichment program by offering the courses online, Gurski said. Bringing a qualified instructor in a subject such as Chinese to Danville’s school buildings is much more difficult than finding one who can teach the same course online, she said.

“The whole thing with the electives is, with increasingly difficult financial times for school districts, expanding offerings is a challenge. The online format allows us to expand our offerings for the students,” she said.

School board president Allan Schappert agreed that offering the summer elective courses online is a boon to the district. It would be impractical to hire a teacher for a subject with only a small amount of interested students, but through the online program these subjects can be offered to district children, he said.

“The idea is to make our kids competitive and successful. This is certainly an adjunct to the traditional teaching methodologies.”

The Cyber Academy and eLearning initiative, introduced at the start of this school year, has “succeeded our expectations,” Schappert said. The feedback from the students has been very encouraging and positive. The Cyber Academy has also brought back some students who had gone elsewhere for cyber school, saving the district a substantial amount of money, Schappert said.

As of February, the district had saved nearly $280,000 by bringing eight students back to the district whom Danville previously had to pay to send to out of district private schools and online charter schools. All those students who will be underclassmen next year are staying in district, either at the Cyber Academy or at one of Danville’s traditional schools, according to Gurski.

“We have grown tremendously over the course of one year,” Gurski said. The Danville Cyber Academy currently offers more than 150 classes and services 25 students.

A parent meeting will be held at 6 p.m., May 13, at the Danville Middle School for parents interested in enrolling their children in the Cyber Academy.

“We’re exploring many more options in the coming year as part of this initiative to better serve our kids,” Gurski said.

Email comments to rstoneback@thedanvillenews.com.

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