SCHERERVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Indiana Cyber Charter School more than doubled its enrollment in two years of its existence, but it also lost about $500,000 a year.
It is covering that loss an unsecured loan at 12 percent interest, according to a recent state audit.
Indiana Cyber Charter School Chief Executive Officer Donald Williams said the online charter school, established July 1, 2012, acquired debt its first year of operation.
“We incurred considerable debt, and we were losing money,” he told The Times in Munster. “When you grow that quickly and with the current (Indiana) funding formula, you have to take out a line of credit. It’s under control now.”
The charter school, formerly headquartered in Schererville, moved to Avon a few months ago. The school is 100 percent online and has six employees — three certified teachers and three non-certified employees. They monitor students’ academic progress.
The virtual charter school, which started with 77 students in grades kindergarten through 12, has increased to 242 students across the state, including several in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties. The board of directors is headed by Jan Myers, of Danville. While no one is on the board from Northwest Indiana, Williams said a new law effective July 1 will allow virtual voting, and he “hopes to be able to diversify the board.”
Williams estimated the charter’s school’s per-pupil tuition from the state is approximately $5,000 per student, which is more per pupil than public school districts that have buildings and equipment.
Michelle Prater of Calumet Township, whose seventh-grade daughter Breanna is in her second year at IN Cyber, said her daughter is doing well and stays involved in social activities through church activities and the YMCA. She also she attends Calumet High School football games with her friends.
“She did very well on ISTEP-Plus, scoring near the pass-plus level,” Prater said. Prater gave her a choice between a bricks-and-mortar school and the online experience, and Breanna chose the virtual school. Despite what Prater called some “fantastic” teachers at the Lake Ridge schools, she said this was a better choice for Breanna.
Breanna, who uses the family dining room as her classroom, said her school day runs from about 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Alice Anderson, dean of the College of Education at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, said online education can serve students with individualized needs.
“There are standards in place through which online education can be evaluated as to how engaging and how strong it is,” Anderson said. “Online education is no longer a situation where a student reads a lot of material and answers questions.”
Williams said the school communicates with students in a variety of ways, including telephone, email, text and video-chat sessions.
“It seems to work terrifically and conveniently for families,” he said. “They have a great deal of access to and attention from teachers and school administrators.”
“For the majority of our students — because we have taken the time to meet with every student prior to enrollment — it enables them to evaluate if this is the best school for them,” he said.