Public, private cyber options available in Valley

Francis Scarcella/The Daily Item

Shikellamy School District officials anticipated interest in cyber school options as public schools move back to in-person classes with restrictions in the fall.

District Superintendent Jason Bendle is welcoming cyber school students to stay in the district during the COVID-19 pandemic and has expanded its cyber academy.

“The Shikellamy School District is excited to announce our expansion to our Virtual Academy,” he said. “The Shikellamy Virtual Academy will now be K-12th grade.”

The Virtual Academy was previously a sixth through 12th grade program.

“This expansion is to provide parents with an option for the 20-21 school year should parents have concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“This option allows students to stay connected to the district and our Shikellamy teachers. Parents are encouraged to contact the district office should they have any questions regarding our Virtual Academy.”

Midd-West Director of Curriculum and Instruction Joe Stroup said the district is also preparing for a bump in interest in the district’s own cyber academy.

About 45 students were enrolled in the past year and a few more students have expressed an interest in it for the upcoming school year, said Stroup.

A survey will be sent out to parents after a series of public meetings on the reopening of school in the fall are completed to determine how many students will opt to enroll in cyber school, he said.

The next two meetings are at 6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

Mount Carmel Area Superintendent Pete Cheddar said the district has the Tornado eLearning Academy (TELA) that had 45 students in K-12 enrolled last year.

“If families are concerned about returning to our physical school in the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic then we can offer alternative options,” said Cheddar. “Depending on the level of possible closure — example: the state requires the physical building to be closed to students due to the pandemic — we will be prepared for options in the fall to meet student and family needs.”

Options could include working with their Mount Carmel Area teachers using teacher-specific Google Classroom websites, which is how they ended the fourth marking period last year, or they can enroll in TELA, said Cheddar.

“Our goal in the coming 2020-2021 school year will be to provide students with their own Chromebook laptops to try to eliminate any possible barriers to student achievement,” said Cheddar. “I would encourage families to contact me at the district office, 570-339-1500 if they have more specific questions.”

Another goal is to add additional town and school district wi-fi hotspots for the coming 2020-2021 school year, he said.

Staff writers Francis Scarcella, Eric Scicchitano, Rick Dandes, Marcia Moore and Joe Sylvester contributed to this report.

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