Pittsburgh School Offers Online Courses to Compete

In an attempt to keep up with changing times in public education, and to prevent students from switching from district to cyber charter schools, Baldwin-White School District leaders held a board meeting to examine how they run their own online education program.

Dr. John D. Wilkinson, school district assistant superintendent, proposed the idea to the school board, with the idea that Baldwin-Whitehall schools will, in the near future, allow students the opportunity to take certain classes online, sometimes within official school buildings, writes Robert Edward Healy, III at Baldwin-Whitehall Patch.

According to district superintendent Dr. Lawrence C. Korchnak around 60 district students are taking the chance to attend a charter school rather than attend Baldwin-Whitehall.

Wilkinson said that although those students attend concrete charter schools, including Young Scholars of Western Pennsylvania Charter School in Baldwin Township, a number of other students have opted to study online, attending “cyber schools” such as Cyber Charter School and Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School.

Wilkinson envisions a Baldwin-Whitehall online education program as a means of insuring that public education turnover stays within the district, as opposed to directing it towards charter schools.

“If these are our kids, if they live within our district walls, why are they not coming here?” said Wilkinson, who emphasized that the hypothesis for the program was not his alone, citing Baldwin High Principal Kevin J. O’Toole and the district Guidance Supervisor Stephanie McHuge as other administrators who also support the idea.

“Our challenge is really to find out why these students are disengaged, why do they not want to be part of us and how do we re-engage them? Are there opportunities for us to develop, for lack of a better term, ‘B-W Online’?”

Wilkinson announced that he and other district administrators are to conduct more research into exploring what is required to successfully provide an online program in association with Baldwin-Whitehall and will provide the board with these findings in the future, as designing a program in such a “hybrid” fashion doubtlessly creates obstacles, such as how to transport students to and from their homes and district buildings.

“Can we have a student come, say, first and second period and go home third period, and maybe come back eighth period? Probably,” said Wilkinson.

Another issue which requires more research is determining how many courses should be offered, on which Korchnak commented:

“As long as we create the curriculum, as long as we establish the rigor, then, they (enrolled students) would get a Baldwin-Whitehall diploma, not some diploma for being part of some school somewhere else.”

Overall, the board was supportive of the notion, but Nancy Sciulli expressed a concern that the transportation of students could lead to security dilemmas. However, fellow board member Kevin J. Fischer applauded the idea.