School districts look to save money, provide better education with their own cyberschools

Bentworth Assistant Superintendent George Lammay is feeling both frustrated and hopeful as the new school year is set to begin. Like many other school officials throughout Washington and Greene counties, Lammay is tired of seeing such a large portion of Bentworth School District’s yearly budget disappear to cover cyberschool costs.

Last year alone, the district paid more than $300,000 for about 25 students living within the district who instead attended a cyberschool of their choosing.

Lammay said the budgetary strain, and the fact students who return to the district from cyber programs are often unprepared or have fallen behind, has led the district to introduce the Bentworth Cyber Academy. The cyber program – Bentworth contracted with Fuel Education – will offer online curriculum for students in grades five through 12. Aspects of the program will also be used with traditional students to offer more electives and to expand the district’s science, technology, engineering, arts and math initiative.

Bentworth is not alone. Many school districts within the two-county region are starting to offer their own cyber programs to combat similar problems.

Parents have the option to pull their children from the school district in which they live and enroll them in the cyber or charter school of their choosing. According to Pennsylvania Department of Education, charter schools are self-managed public schools that are approved by local school districts. Cyber charter schools are approved by the state Department of Education. Both are created and controlled by parents, teachers, community leaders and colleges or universities.

Charter schools operate free from many educational mandates, except for those concerning nondiscrimination, health and safety and accountability.

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