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Hancock County to offer online high school

NEW CUMBERLAND, W.Va. — Hancock County Schools are on track to launch West Virginia’s first public online academy in the second trimester of the new school year, the school board learned on Monday.

The Hancock County Cyber Academy will offer online courses in English, math, science and social studies that can be taken by traditional and homebound students, Superintendent Suzan Smith said.

“There’s so many things you can do with this,” she said.

Students who complete the cyber academy will earn a regular high school diploma.

“They are covering the same content standards as if they were in a face-to-face class,” Smith said.

In a board presentation on Monday, Hancock County teachers Vince McIntosh and Adam Howell said the school district has lost 33 students to online schools such as Penn Foster and that the new cyber academy will help “stop the hemorrhaging.”

McIntosh, an English teacher at Weir High School, and Howell, a social studies teacher at Oak Glen High School, are among 13 teachers who were authorized by the board in June to develop the courses.

Since then, they have received training and other support from Pennsylvania Intermediate Unit 1, a multi-county education agency, and its Cyber Solutions Initiative. The Hancock County courses will be powered by Moodle, a free software e-learning platform, McIntosh said.

“Our primary concern is keeping students enrolled in Hancock County Schools,” McIntosh said. “We think the Hancock County online school will play a major role in that.”

Startup and training costs are being covered by a $120,000 grant from the Pittsburgh-based Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. The Hancock County pilot initiative has already generated interest on the part of the West Virginia Board of Education, Smith said.

Howell said the classes under development include four English courses for ninth through 12th grades; three science courses, including biology, earth science and physical science; three math courses, including Math 1, 2 and 3; and two social studies courses, including civics and 10th-grade U.S. history.

Those classes should be ready in time for the start of the second trimester in mid-November, Howell said. Other classes are under development, he said.

“It’s all the stuff you cover in a regular classroom,” McIntosh said. “You don’t just go online, do a couple of Google searches, hand in a worksheet and call it a day.”


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