These days it seems everything has an acronym. That grouping of letters that means something, if you know what it means. ESACA is one that East Stroudsburg School District parents have come to know well over the past months. It translates, East Stroudsburg Area Cyber Academy, the online Cyber School that East Stroudsburg School District has had in place for the past 11 years.
The popularity of the school has exploded of course with the advent of the pandemic. Over the course of years it had a slow start and limited success. Over the past two years, under the direction of Dr. William Vitulli and Superintendent, Dr. William Riker, the program has expanded and grown with commendable success.
The school itself has been expanded from its original intent for high school students and now includes intermediate and elementary students offering online schooling for K-12. An unusual undertaking for a brick and mortar school district, the creation of a cyber school is an important addition to educational opportunities for the district students. The district has grown its cyber presence to a hybrid as well, one called “Blended Learning”.
Blended Learning is the combination of online and face-to-face experiences. Students have the opportunity to attend school and learn online as well, splitting up the learning experiences during the week. The chance to have a face-to-face interaction with educators reinforces the online learning experience.
The reason that cyber school is attractive to some students, especially today, is the pandemic we are all experiencing. But, there are of course reasons that pre-dated these events. Such as: difficulty with peers, school moving too slow or fast, some need to work during school, others may need to help at home with family needs, some families may be traveling for work and this allows students to stay in their home school district— or perhaps they have had a poor school experience.
There are some program specifics that will be of interest. Last school year there were over 500 students served through the ESACA program. This year, to date, there are over 1,400 students enrolled from K-12. Last year’s breakdown was 75% regular education students and 25 percent Special Education students. Of these, 350 were full-time students while 100 were part-time. The program itself provided over 500 individual courses from fundamental to AP with five cyber coaches and 41 cyber facilitators (subject specific certified). The results were beyond encouraging with 85 percent having passing grades and a two-year average of 98% of seniors graduating.
Students who attend ESACA have all district resources available to them. This includes: Special Education teachers, school psychologists, occupational therapy, speech services, social/emotional supports (FAME), extra-curricular activities/teams/clubs, band, college and career guidance, cohort related activities and facilities.
The cost of the program is a great investment for the district, (saving tax payers millions of dollars) with an annual cost estimate of the program (based on last school year) of $1,036,080 with the average cost per student ranging from $3,572.68 to $4,345.82 depending upon services needed. The approximate savings to the district for the 1,400 enrolled students is more than $26 million. That’s a significant number and savings for taxpayers for sure!
As students embark on this new school year (beginning on August 31), things will be different for sure. There will be weeks split between in person and online education, some parents or guardians have selected part in person and part on school grounds online, other students will attend five days a week due to special needs while others will experience their entire school week online. Regardless, there will be learning taking place and some “new normal” structure to “going to school” everyday! Wishing all students a safe and successful school year!