Lehigh Valley

ASD launches Virtual Academy

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - 1,682 high School students in the Allentown School District have ditched the traditional classroom setting in favor of charter or cyber schools. It's a move that comes at a high cost to the district.

"$25 million dollars," shared Dr. Tina Belardi, Chief Academic Officer for ASD.

She explains the district loses money every time a local student enrolls in these academic alternatives. So now Allentown is fighting to get them back.

"We have a lot of good things going on in Allentown and we want students to stay," Belardi added.

For the first time, students can now enroll in a full-time cyber education program. The ASD Virtual Academy classes are entirely online. Students will get laptops, but they'll also get the same support other district high schoolers receive.

"They will be connected to our teachers, our counselors, to their administrators," explained Belardi. "We really feel like we're building a cyber option for students that is going to have that personal connection."

Virtual Academy students can even play sports for their home school, and they will walk at graduation with the other ASD students. So far, 25 students have signed up for the 2014-2015 school year. Belardi says 24% of those pupils are returning from other cyber and charter schools.

"I feel confident we'll be able to dramatically increase that number," she said.

High school students who don't want to attend the virtual academy full-time do have other options. They can apply to take four brand new online electives during their first or last period of the day. They can also make-up credits over the internet.

"The credit recovery is courses offered to students who were not successful in the course and need the course credit to graduate," Belardi described.

That part of the program is already being offered, and Belardi tells us right now students are taking 239 classes. Seniors were targeted this school year, but any student can make-up courses online.

"The thing about online courses is it isn't for everybody," she added. "But we recognize that it is indeed an option that we need to make available."

Students do need to apply to be a part of the ASD Virtual Academy, and applications are screened to make sure online learning is a good fit for each person. Apex Learning is providing the online, standards based curriculum.

For more about APEX learning, click here.

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