July 29, 2008
Perrysburg Academy Likely to Be Shut Down
By Angie Schmitt, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
Jul. 29--Enrollment at the Perrysburg Digital Academy has fallen to 15 and the community school likely will close, the Perrysburg Board of Education said last night.
Enrollment declines were attributed to a change in state law that will no longer allow community schools, like the Digital Academy, to charge tuition for all-day kindergarten students, but will allow public schools to charge a fee for all-day kindergarten.
The Digital Academy was sponsored by the district and operated as a community school, under district guidance. It served mostly all-day kindergartners.
Last year, the school enrolled 115 students, including more than a dozen middle and high school students who had health or social issues, were considered gifted, or were experiencing family emergencies or other situations that made distance learning preferable.
Secondary school students spent part of their day in class and part studying from home via the Internet.
The majority of those students will re-enroll in the district's junior high and high schools. Two will join a statewide community school, said Bob Falkenstein, Digital Academy coordinator.
District officials discussed suspending the community school for one year, opening enrollment to students from other districts, or dissolving the nonprofit entity entirely.
State law requires a minimum enrollment of 25 students to operate a community school.
Attorney Amy Borman, who was hired by the district as a consultant, said the school system would be better served by closing the academy.
A final decision on the closure will be made in an upcoming meeting of the Digital Academy Board of Education. Digital Academy representatives who were present at the meeting agreed that closure seemed to be the best option.
"There is a need for something more at the junior high and high school level," Mr. Falkenstein told Perrysburg board members. "But it does need to be something different than what we're offering right now."
Superintendent Tom Hosler said the likely closing of the academy was unfortunate. "As the state pushes us further along with demands, we're getting more cookie cutter with our education," he said.
The Digital Academy was operated as a financially independent nonprofit with guidance from the school district. Founded five years ago, it was headquartered at Perrysburg High School.
Also during the meeting, the Perrysburg school board authorized union contracts for 510 employees, including 330 teachers, counselors, and professional staff, and 180 support staff including bus drivers, custodians, and secretaries.
All are to receive 2.75 percent raises during the first year, 2.8 percent during the second, and 2.95 percent during the third.
The teachers' former pay scale ranged from $32,518 for entry-level teachers to $79,019 for the most experienced. Employees also remain under a health plan that requires co-pays of 10 to 15 percent on premiums.
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