Fox Chapel Area expands into full-time cyber school
By Tawnya Panizzi
Published: Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Fox Chapel Area School District is putting muscle behind its motto of “anytime, anyplace learning.”
Administrators are piloting a full-time cyber program for high school students, expanding on its FC Virtual courses that already offer blended learning opportunities.
Fox Chapel Area Online aims to meet the needs of all students in the district, said Randi Leonard, teacher and online learning manager.
“For those who have chosen an online education option away from Fox Chapel Area, and to provide greater flexibility in course scheduling, we decided to look into the feasibility of a fully online program,” she said.
Students who are residents of the district can enroll in cyber high school at no cost.
Computer equipment also can be coordinated with the system for free.
Four students are registered for Fox Chapel Area's new program, and 47 students who live in the district are enrolled in cyber classes elsewhere.
Bonnie Berzonski, district coordinator of communications, said core and elective courses are offered, in addition to a variety of blended courses, meaning that 80 percent of the work is done online and the balance done in person.
“Each student has a unique style of learning and at Fox Chapel Area, we strive to meet individual needs through differentiated instruction and flexible scheduling,” she said.
For the past three years, the district offered FC Virtual courses, which are teacher-designed. Leonard said this program has grown each year.
“We found that many families who had decided on a cyber alternative would have preferred to stay in the district, had that (full-time) option been available,” Leonard said.
The combination of access to Fox Chapel Area staff and a district diploma makes Fox Chapel Area Online appealing, Leonard said. About 15 teachers were involved in designing courses, and eight to 10 will provide lessons.
The program's flexibility could be a good alternative for many families, for reasons such as health-related issues, sports or dance commitments, temporary family relocations or a desire to provide home schooling, Leonard said.
Students who choose cyber classes still have access to district activities, club and events, Berzonski said. Students are assigned to a school counselor, who will help them achieve educational goals.
“Weekly student reports regarding student achievement and attendance are provided,” she said.
Educational and technological support is provided on campus until students are comfortable with the online aspect.
Students are monitored by teachers, either online or in person. Leonard said students are encouraged to meet face-to-face with teachers when help is needed.
Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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