Pittsburgh Online Academy to use district teachers

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After two years of using outsiders to teach online students, the Pittsburgh Public Schools board tonight approved changes at the Pittsburgh Online Academy that will turn the teaching over to district teachers.

The board approved hiring Brandywine Virtual to provide various services, including daily homeroom, daily live teacher support, 24/7 tutoring, portfolio-based assessments and online tech support for $2,557 per student for up to 300 full-time students.

About seven Pittsburgh district teachers will be engaged on a part-time basis. Teachers will be paid $3,500 for one class and $7,000 for two.

Last year, the board switched from Waterfront Learning, operated through the Allegheny Intermediate Unit which it used the first year of the academy, to VLN Partners, located on the South Side, for the second year. Both services provided teachers, but the long-range plan was to use Pittsburgh teachers.

VLN charged $5,000 per student, including the cost of teachers.

Online Academy principal Shemeca Crenshaw said the curriculum will remain largely the same because Brandywine and VLN use many of the same textbooks.

The Online Academy ended the year with 124 students in grades 4-12. It has registered 150 for fall.

The district started the online academy at least in part to compete with cyber charter schools for which the district must pay a fee set by the state for each resident who attends.

Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.


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