PSBA Bulletin September/October 2021 September/October 2021 - Page 20

Cyber Program Road Trip Project : Students in Mrs . Haggerty ’ s sixth grade WC Cyber English course hit the road virtually . Students chose a destination and planned a trip as an extension to their unit on The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis . Students created Google slide shows with information about their destination and some stops along the way . They included fun facts , postcards and playlists to liven things up .
What was the district ’ s online option for students during the pandemic has emerged as the Cumberland Valley Virtual Academy , a new program that joins the district ’ s 10 brickand-mortar buildings as an educational option for the 8,000 students it serves . The full-time K-8 program is primarily live instruction from Cumberland Valley teachers with a complimentary 9-12 program through the intermediate unit that can meet the secondary demand for course variety and flexibility . Enrollment for the 2021-22 school year is just over 400 students , which is down considerably from the 3,000 who opted for online learning in the previous year . However , the district is moving forward based on more than just numbers .
“ I think we have to be mindful that the world is changing rapidly around us and our educational institutions have to adapt ,” said Christopher .
Cumberland Valley has paid more than $ 2 million in tuition payments to cyber charter schools . The district hopes to recoup some of that lost revenue by offering online students options for hands-on labs and activities , as well as social and emotional support .
“ We have quite a bit of flexibility to move beyond that closed pandemic mindset to an open best-forkids model ,” explained David Gilbert , principal of the Cumberland Valley Virtual Academy . “ Online learning is something that ’ s good for some kids . It works for some kids and some families , and so we ’ re going to give them the flexibility to do that while maintaining some of the great stuff that we can offer through our campuses and all of the activities that we offer .”
In the Jefferson-Morgan School District , a much smaller district serving 800 students in southwestern Pennsylvania , the JM eLearning Academy Cyber Program was 5 years old at the start of the pandemic . The district-run cyber program served students in grades 7-12 but rapidly responded to the need to include K-6 in 2020 , a model that currently remains in place .
“ I don ’ t necessarily want to go back to the way things were because I think we ’ ve done such a good job in moving forward ,” Superintendent Joseph Orr reflected . “ If we can ’ t be flexible and adapt to the needs of our families and students , they will find somewhere else to go that will provide them that flexibility .”
Jefferson-Morgan is also expecting fewer online students than last year but is preparing for a higher enrollment than in pre-COVID years .
Melissa Fullerton is the director of communications and community relations for Governor Mifflin School District in Berks County .
18 PSBA Bulletin September / October 2021