The Intelligencer - Hilary Bentman

District planning middle school cyber program

By: HILARY BENTMAN
The Intelligencer

The Quakertown School District is still in its first year running a high school cyber program, but administrators are already planning a middle school version.

On Thursday, the school board heard plans for a middle school cyber program designed to provide a flexible learning environment for non-traditional learners.

"We know not all of our kids engage in a traditional fashion. We need to provide other opportunities," said Strayer Middle School principal Cynthia Lapinski, who presented the plan with Derek Peiffer, principal at Milford Middle.

More than the high school program, the middle school version, given the age of its students, would place emphasis on socialization components. To that end, the program is being called cyber hybrid.

Ideally, students would take online classes in the building along with traditional classes. However, students could choose to take all cyber classes from home.

The cyber program classes would be taught by district teachers. It's aimed at students seeking an alternative, those in need of remediation, or students wanting to accelerate beyond their grade level.

The program would be individualized to the student.

"Most of the time it's independent learning. That's why it's not for every kid," said Superintendent Lisa Andrejko.

There's also a financial component to the idea. Currently, there are 100 Quakertown middle school students attending cyber charter schools elsewhere. By law, Quakertown must pay their tuition, which totals about $300,000 this year, said Andrejko.

Similar to the high school cyber program, the goal would be to bring these middle school students back into the district, which would save money.

Along with the cyber component, the district is also looking at an in-school alternative program for the middle school level, targeting those students who are struggling and exhibiting social and emotional problems. In the past these students have gone to alternative schools outside the district. Instead, Quakertown administrators are considering setting up a school within Strayer for any middle school student who needs an alternative, structured and supportive environment. When the students are ready, they could go back to their traditional classrooms.

School board members were receptive to both ideas but had questions about staffing, the effect on the middle school schedule, and cost.

Administrators are still working on the details. The hope, however, is to have the program running by the fall.

The high school cyber program, called Infinity Cyber Academy, has 92 students, of which 22 are full time. The rest take a mixture of cyber and traditional classes.