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eCademy Charter: Fostering 21st century learners
eCademy 1
eCademy Charter students Dominique Martinez, Alexis Esparza, and Jazmin Mendoza test the new tablets that the charter school implemented this year as part of a pilot class. - photo by ALYSSON AREDAS / The Journal

eCademy Charter Principal Robin Swartz regards her campus as a hidden gem, and for a fitting reason. Although the campus’ flexibility has something to offer virtually every student, a good portion of the community is unaware of the benefits that it provides academically and socially.

Despite this, Swartz is doing everything in her power to make sure that the community does not stay in the dark about the charter school.

“I’ve gone to elementary schools, I’ve gone to Rotary, I’ve gone to service clubs,” said Swartz. “I just want to tell everybody about us because a lot of people do not know what we have to offer. People just think we are very limited because we are small.”

eCademy Charter School is the  newest addition to Turlock Unified School District, opening in the 2011-2012 academic year,  but it isn’t your typical K-12 school. The school has a physical site at the former site of Crane Elementary School, but most of the high school level courses offered by the school take place online.

The school offers K-6 home school, 7-12 independent study/ home school, and 9-12 credit recovery in addition to its 9-12 distance learning program. There are several classrooms at the eCademy campus where students can meet with teachers in small groups or one-on-one, depending on their study program.

eCademy is the perfect fit for each individual student and their specific needs, according to Swartz. She said that a wide variety of high school level students come into her office with a valid reason to attend the charter school, whether it is to make up credits to graduate, mental health issues, having the intention to graduate early, or work conflictions.

“We want to catch these kids before they fall too far behind,” said Swartz. “We support them in what they need and we make it work. We listen to their goals and we figure it out together.”

This past year the school has found a way to stand out among other schools in the district with its pilot tablet class for sophomores. Swartz pursued the idea of utilizing tablets as a way to create a blended learning environment and better retain students.

“My goal was to create a truly blended learning program,” explained Swartz. “With these tablets, students are using apps and doing research, all part of their curriculum. They are learning in the now in order to become 21st century learners.”

In addition to the tablet class, which is in talks to expand next year, every class at eCademy has technology integration one way or the other. However, technology is not the only element that makes this charter school a special learning environment.

“eCademy offers small instruction and class sizes, as well as as much support as the student needs,” said Swartz. “Kids can come in extra days if they need more time to work and teachers are always available via email, through text messages, and over the phone.”

For students enrolled in kindergarten through 6th grade, eCademy offers a flexible and diverse homeschooling program that reflects the curriculum and materials covered at all comprehensive sites in Turlock.

With this program, all of the student’s work is completed at home. However, parents and students come in one day a week for one hour to meet with the teacher and turn in their assignments. During this time, the teacher will also preview new concepts, as well as offer any needed support.

“The teachers and kids are really nice,” said 5th grader Jenna Bledsoe. “The teachers don’t make you do the homework super fast either.”

In addition to homeschooling, eCademy also offers independent study, a perfect fit for students who do not thrive in a traditional classroom setting. Swartz reported that students who opt for independent study need a certain level of commitment, motivation, and organizational skills, as well as a sense of self-direction.

Students enrolled in this program work independently on district-adopted curriculum under the general supervision of credentialed teachers, as well as meet on campus with their teacher or a small group for a few times a week. Most importantly, this program offers the flexibility that students need to fit their own individual style of learning.

“You get more one-on-one help here versus at a regular school,” said 12th grader Aeriana Moore. “I also like it because I haven’t heard of anyone getting bullied here either. It makes it easier to focus.”

Aside from all of the academic benefits, Swartz said that students do not completely miss out on the social aspect of a comprehensive school. eCademy has a senior trip, prom, graduation ceremony, and field trips to keep students socially engaged.

“I can’t give you the rallies and all of that, but I can give you some of the things you would get in a comprehensive school,” promised Swartz.

For more information on eCademy Charter at Crane, call 669-3410 or visit