Freeport’s cyber charter school is helping district save money, officials say
Freeport Area School District’s new cyber academy has reduced the flow of district money to outside cyber charter schools, according to Superintendent Ian Magness.
Public school districts throughout Pennsylvania are required by state law to pay tuition costs for students who live within their boundaries but choose to attend a cyber charter school not affiliated with the district.
Freeport Area pays close to $12,500 for each student enrolled in a regular education program at an outside cyber school and $20,700 for each student enrolled in a special education program.
The district created the Freeport Area Cyber Academy last year in partnership with Seneca Valley School District.
“Because our cyber academy costs are much less — $3,500 for regular students and $5,800 for special ed students — we are ahead in our budget,” Magness told the school board Wednesday.
Eight students are enrolled in the Freeport Area Cyber Academy.
Twenty-nine students who live in the district are enrolled in outside cyber charter schools.
Magness said the district budgeted about $580,000 this school year to cover cyber school tuition for an anticipated 42 students in both regular and special education programs.
“We’re approximately $162,000 to the good because of that,” Magness said, referring to the eight students enrolled in the district’s cyber academy. Even with the 29 students enrolled in outside cyber charter schools, the total cyber enrollment of 37 students is lower than the 42 that was anticipated.
“Our numbers are really good, but we’re working to do more,” Magness told the board.
He said the administration has been involved in a marketing effort to attract the students attending outside cyber charter schools.
“We do basically a grassroots cold-call campaign where we call the parents and ask them to give us a chance,” Magness said.
He said Freeport administrators point out that the state holds the district accountable for students’ progress.
“In an outside cyber charter setting, there is very little accountability, and that is common knowledge across the commonwealth,” Magness said.
Larry Robb Jr., the district’s program director, said Freeport Area stays in contact on a routine basis with students enrolled in its cyber academy.
“There’s usually at least one phone call a week to the students who are in it,” Robb said.