CATAWISSA RR - Southern Columbia Area School Board approved a contract Monday night with Behavioral Health Associates to provide online education services as an alternative to charter and cyber-charter schools.

The program, called e-Bridge Academy, is a full-time option for students enrolled in cyber schools that will provide administration with the ability to manage the curriculum of their students and track student progress, explained Superintendent Paul Caputo.

It will also allow the students to participate in athletics and extracurricular activities, use all district resources and receive diplomas from their home district, he said.

Superintendents and administration across the state have been critical of the flaws in funding and procedures of the state government for charter and cyber-charter schools for years, causing districts to look for alternatives.

Similarly to e-Bridge, Line Mountain and Shamokin Area are among more than 25 central Pennsylvania high schools in the Heartland Athletic Conference that collaborated with Pittsburgh-based Virtual Learning Network (VLN) to establish a common curriculum.

However, a district can only recommend e-Bridge, VLN and other programs; it cannot force a student to choose it.

In the 2010-11 school year, Southern, Line Mountain and Shamokin Area paid more than $1.6 million toward tuition for cyber-school students. They pay the cyber-schools whatever the home district's determined "per-student" rate is, which means Shamokin Area must pay $9,700 for a student to attend cyber-school while Southern Columbia pays $7,500 and Line Mountain $9,000. Despite the different rates, students from those districts could be attending the same charter or cyber-charter school.

The cost of e-Bridge is $25 per day per student, Caputo said.

Computer program

Last week, it was announced the district received 150 Chrome notebook computers for a pilot program for eighth-grade algebra students to replace their textbooks.

Brenda Monick, director of curriculum, instruction and technology, told the board Monday night the eventual goal is to expand the program to eventually replace all district textbook with notebook computers.

She also said the district's Bring Your Own Technology program will be used again this upcoming school year so students can use their own laptops, computers or tablets in the classroom.

There will be several orientation meetings after the school year begins, she said.

While she's not sure if it will ever expand beyond the high school, Monick said she would ideally like to see fifth through 12th grades using the program.