The Herald, Sharon, PA Published Sunday, Feb. 11, 2001
outlook 2001


Districts couldn’t ignore cyber school idea

By Sherris Moreira-Byers
Herald Staff Writer

Despite the inception of a new cyberschool, which should allow students the choice to be schooled at home via computer, its own board would prefer students stay in public schooling.

"I have a strong belief, if you’re going to have school, students should go to a building with other kids and be taught by certified teachers with a curriculum established by a local school board," said Union School District Superintendent Dominic J. Ionta.

Oddly enough, this is coming from a person who is also the president of the Midwestern Regional Virtual Charter School, a cyber school which will cover Mercer, Lawrence and Butler counties.

The board, which is made up of the 27 superintendents representing 27 school districts in Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV’s three county area, found themselves in the unique position of organizing the virtual school in response to other cyber schools in Pennsylvania.

About 30 students in this region joined a cyber school out of Midland, Pa., which costs the school district they’re from about $5,000 to $9,000 per student, Ionta explained.

Instead of sending money out of their own school districts, the Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV or MIU IV decided to charter their own school with the end hope of costing their districts about half that amount per student. Ionta expects the cyber school’s cost per pupil to be around $3,000 a year.

What would be preferable to the board and the MIU IV is to offer cyber services to students and enhance their learning at school, according to Ionta.

"For example, at Union for the past ten years we’ve been offering Russian, Japanese, German, and Latin through a hook-up at a college that has one of these courses," said Ionta, who added the students learn at school via a speakerphone, satellite dish, watching classes through a television screen.

But cyber services can not be offered by the MIU IV unless it’s in charter school form because of state legislation.

"We’ve passed a resolution asking our legislation to look at that," said Ionta about the board. "What many of us would like to see happen is a cyber school without a charter or cyber services without a charter school."

That way, instead of one or the other, students could have the best of both worlds; either attend an actual cyber school, or use their computers to enhance the home school district’s programs.

But for now, the cyber school is slated to start in July, despite the preference of Ionta.

"I have a strong belief if kids go to school, they go to school. It’s pretty simple," he said.

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