Leaders from three area school districts want to build on the success of the Westmoreland Online Academy by expanding the program to middle and high school students.
The online academy – a collaboration between the Hempfield Area, Franklin Regional and Norwin school districts – was created in response to the covid-19 pandemic as a way to combine resources while providing alternative forms of learning to students. More than 100 students from kindergarten to grade five are enrolled.
Discussions about the possible expansion were shared by Matthew Conner, Hempfield’s assistant superintendent of secondary education, at a recent school board meeting.
“The thought process for the collaboration is to expand the current elementary offering to secondary levels to share instructional responsibility among the three districts,” Conner said. “By sharing resources between the three districts, we can ensure that the program remains viable in the future, and this helps to ensure that it is carried out in a financially responsible way.”
Westmoreland Online Academy training was first approved by each district over the summer.
As the program currently stands, a total of six teachers – two from each district – are assigned a grade level and provide daily real-time learning to a class of students from the three districts. In addition to grade level teachers, specialist teachers from two districts offer a weekly lesson in art, music, physical education and more.
Robin Pynos, assistant superintendent at Franklin Regional, said the idea for the program was to start at the elementary level and then later expand to high school students.
She noted that “it’s been working really well” for elementary school students in the district.
“I think this is an opportunity to share our resources and by combining the resources of these three districts, I think we can better meet the needs of our students and hopefully strengthen what we offer,” a- she declared.
“Any of us trying to venture into something like this on our own becomes a bit of a challenge.”
Norwin did not respond to requests for comment.
Franklin Regional and Hempfield Area will be surveying parents over the next few weeks to determine the level of interest in expanding the program.
If the expansion goes ahead, it could be open to interested students by the fall.