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eCademy ready for state approval

POSTED March 15, 2011 8:30 p.m.

Pending state approval, the eCademy at Crane charter school will open by the start of next school year for students in grade K-12.

Last night the Turlock Unified School District (TUSD) Board of Trustees unanimously approved the charter petition for eCademy following months of planning and feedback from district personnel, parents and the community.

eCademy is TUSD’s first charter school and will offer four academic programs including K-12 homeschooling, 7-12 independent study, 9-12 online distance learning through the e2020 program, and 9-12 credit recovery (through e2020). e2020 is an online program where students will be able to log onto their NetBooks (which are given free of charge to all students enrolled at eCademy) from anywhere at any time and do their homework, lesson plans, lecture, participate in online classroom discussions and even have a hand in virtual labs.

Charter schools are public schools that are guaranteed funding from taxpayers but aren’t necessarily held to the same state curriculum rules and regulations as traditional schools, with the exception of core subject areas such as math, science and English.

Students at eCademy will have the option to come to campus for further instructions, tutoring and lab time.

“For some kids home maybe be a loud, crazy place and some people need to focus in a calm environment. They can come to the school site and do work or get small group instruction with their teacher,” said Lacrisha Ferriera, TUSD assistant superintendent for educational services.

There will be individual classrooms for K-2 home school students, 3-5 home school students, 6-8 independent study students and high school student small group instruction pods and classroom labs. The labs are expected to be open extended hours.

eCademy will serve any and all students who wish to enroll in the school. Students from comprehensive high schools who need a short-term or long-term educational alternative due to life circumstances can enroll in eCademy and then go back to a comprehensive school when needed.

According to Ferriera, students can also participate in extra-curricular activities such as band, choir, drama, art, photography, athletics, academic clubs and competitions, and social clubs. Ferriera explained that students who wish to participate in extra-curricular activities at the traditional school campuses — in particular athletics — will be considered on a student by student basis to ensure compliance with California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) regulations.

“We’ve really taken every step to get input, feedback and suggestions from the community and the board and I am so excited about this,” said Ferriera.

Teachers at eCademy will be certified teachers. At the high school level the existing teachers of the Freedom Education Center will be moved over to the eCademy and the Freedom Center will no longer exist.

Financially, the eCademy must remain self-sufficient and the entire school’s budget will be separate from the rest of the school district, yet oversight — financial and regulatory — will be in the hands of the TUSD Board of Trustees.

Currently, there are a total of 200 students who have applied for eCademy but TUSD officials hope to increase that number to 325 by the time the school opens in August. Once official word is given from the state, TUSD will launch an aggressive TV, radio, online and print advertising campaign in the local area.

The State Department of Education is expected to approve the charter by the end of May.

“Everyone (in the community) is intrigued about how this is all going to work,” said Ferriera.

After the school begins charter revisions can be made should they be deemed necessary by the community, parents, teachers, administrators or the Board of Trustees.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail jmccorkell@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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