Reach Cyber graduation photo

Photo courtesy of Reach Cyber

Reach Cyber seniors are shown during the June 7 commencement.

Four students from Washington County enrolled in Reach Cyber Charter School, a tuition-free online charter school, were among the 265 graduating seniors who walked across the stage this month.

The online school held an in-person commencement on June 7 at West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Mechanicsburg.

Jacob Bard of Muse, Grace Lucas of McDonald, Zoei O’Brien of New Eagle and Juan Pluguez of Washington were the four students who graduated from Washington County. It was the first graduating class for the school.

During the 2018-19 year, more than 3,100 students were enrolled in grades K-12.

Amanda Piccirilli-Hall, a spokesperson for Reach Cyber Charter School, said the enrollment rate has exploded.

“Reach Cyber started in 2016 with only 400 students across the state serving grades K-9, and has grown to support nearly 3,200 students in kindergarten through 12th grade during the 2018-19 school year,” Piccirilli-Hall said. “The school is looking to surpass those numbers in the upcoming school year.”

The school is Pennsylvania’s newest statewide online school for students in grades K-12. The program focuses heavily on STEM-based curriculum.

Students can pick from three different graduation options. There is the traditional pace, which is the typical school year with the students in classes in the fall and spring terms and off in the summer. The year-round pace allows students to take four classes in the summer, fall and spring. The accelerated pace allows students to pick two to four classes in the summer, with six classes in the fall and spring.

The tuition-free school gives students all of the required texts and materials free of charge.

According to a news release from Reach Cyber, around 49% of the graduating seniors plan to attend a two- or four-year college and 20% have decided to enter the workforce.

The school uses four activities for students to communicate with others in the program. LiveLesson Sessions are live online classes that connect students, clubs and activities for students to find friends who share the same experiences. Cyber Reach hosts local events that are organized by statewide community coordinators in different regions of Pennsylvania, and STEM Day Camps and Clubs are opportunities for students to travel together to “explore their creativity.”

“The school uses Connexus as their digital platform, which is one of the most comprehensive and reliable online learning management systems available,” Piccirilli-Hall said. “Teachers conduct classes with an interactive system called LiveLesson. LiveLesson sessions allow Reach Cyber teachers to create and lead real-time, lively interactions of a traditional classroom, but in an online setting using a computer, webcam and microphone.”

Piccirilli-Hall said it allows students and teachers to connect easily through the online software.

“In addition to everyday learning and communication with teachers and counselors via phone, webcam and email, Reach Cyber students have the ability to join more than 30 different educational and social clubs through the school, which allows them to meet and interact with classmates. Reach Cyber community coordinators also plan and host in-person field trips across the state for students and families to meet in person.”

According to a survey conducted by Reach Cyber in 2018, 95% of parents agreed the curriculum is high quality, 97% of parents are satisfied with teachers’ helpfulness and 93% of parents would recommend Connections Academy to other families.

The online school also provides special education for students with autism, those who are deaf or blind, or those with intellectual disabilities and other challenges.

Staff writer

Adrianne Uphold is a senior at West Virginia University. Before joining the Observer-Reporter as the summer intern, she was the managing editor at WVU's student newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum. Adrianne also reported for WAJR Radio and Metro News.

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