Successes reported for Brandywine's Virtual Academy

Patriot photo by Dan Clark

Brandywine’s Virtual Academy’s director reports successes.

Carolyn Hanych, Virtual Academy director, provided a presentation to the Brandywine Heights School Board on Monday night, March 4, who reported the successes and the future for the virtual academy.

BHVA begin in 2009 with only eight highschool students, two of whom were special education students. In 2010 BHVA introduced grades six through eight and in 2011 they incorporated the kindergarten through fifth grade program. The 2012-13 school year has 92 students that are using online courses. Of those 92 students, 28 are using BHVA full time and do not attend a traditional brick and mortar building for school.

“One feature that sets us apart from all other cyber charters is that we can allow students to customize their learning and select courses in our brick and mortar building and also online courses,” Hanych said.

The elementary school kids participated in a show case which five states were included (Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania).Of the nine students that participated in the showcase, five of them were from Brandywine Heights.

This year the program is looking at a 90 percent graduation rate if they were stopped now.

“There are only three students who are not on track to graduate and we’re in contact with them quite often,” Hanych said.

BHVA gives students the opportunity to work from home and gives students a 24/5 help line.

“Beginning on Sunday night they have the chance to contact a teacher who is a part of the program to help them.”

What Hanych believes is the most important thing that the students in the program get is a high school diploma when they graduate.

“These students are Brandywine students and they get a diploma when they graduate which is not something that most cyber charter schools can offer.”

The students are considered Brandywine Heights students and can participate in after school activities and clubs that the district offers.

The presentation showed the success rate of the school as well as the financial benefits to the school.

A chart prepared by Hanych shows that the cost of BHVA is much more economical than the cost of the average cyber charter school. With 91 regular education students, there are 302 online courses that the students can choose from and the average cost per student is $1,243. While at the cyber charter schools, there are only five to eight online courses and the average cost per student is $9,875.

According to Hanych, the number of students enrolling in online courses seems to be at a plateau which is what she wanted.

“Now it is time to improve the program and see how we can improve it.”

This year, BHVA had their first field trip where they went to the Lehigh Valley Zoo and they did a study on Ornithology and had a presentation on birds of prey. This spring, they will be planning a field trip to an organic farm with the elementary students.

“We want to have a manual so that there can be an outline of what the program looks like from start to finish,” Hanych said.

On April 4 in the Brandywine Heights Area High School library there will be a open house that all are invited to. Students will showcase the work they have done in the virtual academy.

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