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eCademy opens doors to first class of students
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Instructor Glen Blackley helps two new eCademy Charter students enroll in the distance learning program through e2020 educational software. Blackley assists e2020 users when they have questions or need extra help with their online independent studies. - photo by ANDREA GOODWIN/ The Journal

eCademy Charter School is the  newest addition to Turlock Unified School district, but it isn’t your typical K-12 school. The school has a physical site at Crane — several classrooms and two mobile units under construction — but most of the high school level courses offered by the school take place online.

eCademy Charter offers an online distance learning program for students in grades 9 through 12. These students are enrolled full time at eCademy Charter, but they do most of their school work through independent study. The school uses the learning software e2020 to offer an online classroom experience to students.  eCademy Charter Coordinator Manuel Cobarruvias said e2020 is much more interactive than many online programs.

“It’s not like an online textbook where students read a book and take a test. It has lectures from actual teachers that follow state standards. Students in science labs can actually see chemical reactions demonstrated. It’s one of the best programs I have seen,” said Cobarruvias.

The new eCademy Charter at Crane also 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 Crane where students can meet with teachers in small groups or one-on-one, depending on their study program. Independent study students meet twice a week with teachers in different subject areas to receive instruction or help on study materials to be completed at home.

Amanda Tavares has been teaching in the Freedom Academy independent study program for eight years. Freedom officially became eCademy Charter this semester, and Tavares stayed on as a 9-12 independent studies teacher. She said that schools like Freedom and eCademy can help students who do not thrive in a larger classroom setting.

“There are students who need that one-on-one time. Many of them are better able to focus on their studies when they are in a smaller group or meet one-on-one,” Tavares said.

Tavares meets with her students twice a week, and also teaches a photography class on Fridays. She said that over the last eight years she has met many students who have circumstances that prevent them from attending a traditional six hour school day. Some work to help families, some have health problems, and some just don’t do well in a classroom setting.

“If we weren’t here many of them wouldn’t have finished,” Tavares said.

Cobarruvias agreed with Tavares’s opinion that some students would not finish high school without independent and distance learning programs. He said that students have many reasons for preferring or needing independent study, but they all deserve a group of supportive teachers and staff and up-to-date technology and facilities.  Students who attend eCademy Charter at Crane are offered a netbook laptop computer to use at home during their enrollment in the program.

“Some students choose not to take the netbook because they have their own computer. Some of them need it to do e2020 classes at home. We just want to see them succeed,” Cobarruvias said.

eCademy Charter is still enrolling students for the 2011-2012 school year. Students from Turlock Unified School District and nearby districts can choose to attend eCademy because it has charter school status. Cobarruvias said that the school has a rigorous curriculum that meets all California State Standards.

“Some people always ask ‘is this where bad kids go?’ Students can’t come to eCademy if they were kicked out of another school. This is a regular curriculum but students do most of the work independently. It takes a mature student to do well in these programs,” Cobarruvias said.

New teacher Nick Lauber joined eCademy Charter six months ago when it was still Freedom Academy. He said that this is his first teaching job, and that he chose to teach at an independent study charter academy after he met with the staff.

“I really liked the sense that the school put students first,” Lauber said.

eCademy Charter at Crane is still under construction, but every classroom space should be operational by September. The school has not reached maximum enrollment and can still take new students. For more information, e-mail or call 669-3410.

To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.