To raise awareness of the cyber programs offered by all 22 school districts in Lancaster and Lebanon counties, the districts created a marketing campaign.
The “Local Cyber Options @ Lancaster and Lebanon County School Districts” initiative, through advertising and social media, is designed to lead parents to a website that features links to each school’s online program.
The message for parents who are considering cyber learning in the COVID era is to contact their school district first to see what’s available.
“Public school districts traditionally do not engage in marketing and advertising of this nature,” Shannan Guthrie, program director of corporate communications for Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 (IU13), said in a release.
But the pandemic and its effects on the traditional “brick and mortar” model have made this necessary.
“As parents are exploring options for their child’s education this coming school year … we want to make sure they realize that their local school district has a high-quality cyber program available and the benefits of using a program that is affiliated with the school district,” Guthrie wrote in a follow-up email.
Brian Barnhart, executive director of IU13, said in the release that school districts “are working diligently to develop health and safety plans that will maximize instruction while minimizing risk. Simultaneously, we are seeing an increased interest in cyber school options from students and parents in our school districts.”
Palmrya Area School District is seeing a major jump in cyber students, said Kim-Kathie Knudsen, supervisor of instructional technology and online learning.
Over 400 students are taking at least one online class at Cougar Academy, the district’s cyber school, she said.
Last school year, prior to COVID-19, it was about 220, Knudsen said. Cyber learning was more common among athletes, who could take online classes to fit their schedules, and students with medical issues, she said.
Cougar Academy covers K-12, and the most notable change is in the earliest grades. There’s a full class of kindergarteners this year, and Knudsen said she doesn’t believe there were any last year.
Tommy Long notices the same trend. An assistant principal at Annville-Cleona who oversees online learning, he said the enrollment numbers are definitely up more at the elementary level.
There are almost a dozen kindergarten students in the Annville-Cleona Digital Community (A-C~DC, for short).
Previously, Long said, there were few — if any — enrolled in the online learning program.
Parents and students like having the options of cyber and traditional classes and the flexibility the options offer, Long added.
When students leave their local school district to attend an unaffiliated cyber school, their tuition is paid for by the local school district, ranging from $12,000 to $27,000 per student per year, the release noted. But if students attend their district’s cyber program instead, the fee is approximately 60 percent less, and the students are still connected with their local school.
So, in addition to instruction and curriculum, cyber programs provide access to counseling and support services, school district extracurricular activities, and a diploma from your high school when you graduate.
In the release, Barnhart emphasized that students enrolled in their district’s cyber academy could easily return to traditional schooling, if they chose, once the pandemic has passed.
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