Teams from Penn Manor, Hempfield and Manheim Township have built a unique online learning partnership that blurs the boundaries of traditional school buildings and district attendance areas. Beginning in August of 2012, students may enroll in district-sponsored online courses taught by teachers from each partner high school. Titled “Open Campus PA,” the goal of the partnership is to provide quality education choices for students seeking schedule flexibility, specific elective courses or even accelerated graduation options.
Virtual education is common in Pennsylvania. In addition to cyber charter school programs, many districts contract with external entities for fully online or blended courses. What makes our online initiative unique is the tri-district cooperative nature of course development and an open enrollment policy where students from each district may participate in any other partner district’s online courses. Courses will be taught by well-qualified teachers to mixed sections of students from all three high schools. In practice, the high school concept transitions into a modern homebase for learning, rather than a monolithic building where instruction exclusively occurs on-site.
In the face of economic and political challenges facing public school districts, with particularly strong advocacy coming from our state elected leaders for school choice, we seek to provide educational choice for students that is more innovative and expansive than that proposed by others. We are working to transform our three high schools to break down the barriers of time and space and provide true educational choice for all of our students. If students can take classes in a manner and time that suits them, it could lead to greater student achievement. This project can save programs for students and jobs for our staff. We also believe we have the opportunity to develop a model that could be replicated throughout the state.