Southern Ohio Academy ends its first school year

May 28, 2013

Ryan Scott Ottney

PDT Staff Writer

The end of the school year is an annual milestone for school districts, but students and teachers at the Southern Ohio Academy are experiencing it for the first time as the school completes its first year of classes.

Opened in 2012, the not-for-profit Academy is a collaborative effort of Bloom Vernon, Clay, Green, Manchester, Minford, Northwest, Oak Hill, Scioto County Career Technical Center (SciotoTech), South Central Ohio Educational Service Center (ESC), Valley, Washington Nile, and Wheelersburg schools. Its curriculum is provided by the Virtual Community School of Ohio, offering a blend of online courses and physical classrooms available at the Career Technical Center in Lucasville.

“Our mission is to get more kids with high school diplomas,” said Stan Jennings of SciotoTech.

The Southern Ohio Academy offers high school courses in language arts, math, science, social studies, health and physical education, foreign languages, art, creative writing, drama, mythology, poetry, reading, computer skills, and other special programs. Students can also participate in special projects such as job shadowing for class credit.

Students can enroll full-time to complete their high school education, or they can remain enrolled in their home school district and take part-time classes at the Academy to pick up extra credits they may need. There is no tuition for full-time students, and every student at the Academy will receive a laptop computer, printer, scanner, and access to the Internet to participate in online classes.

This is the first and only school of its kind in the entire state of Ohio, sponsored by SciotoTech in Lucasville. Classes began in September for grades 7-12, and this month finished its first year with 80 students enrolled

“The generous cooperation of the local school districts that are a part of this consortium was critical. They were very supportive. When they had students with issues at their home schools that they thought this would benefit, they encouraged those kids to come,” said Academy Executive Director Patricia Ciraso. “I had complete and total cooperation with all the districts involved.”

She explained the Academy is not trying to take traditional students away from brick-and-mortar schools. She said the school is intended for at-risk students who might not otherwise complete their education within the traditional 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. school day.

“The best opportunity is always brick-and-mortar because you have that sense of community and things that are more difficult to get when you don’t have regular attendance like that. But I think what we found is that we did help a lot of kids. Almost every student that we had, that had been with us over the course of the year or most of the year, passed at least some of their classes. A lot of them passed all of their classes,” Ciraso said.

Seven of the 11 seniors attending the Academy this year graduated during a ceremony on the SciotoTech campus in Lucasville. One student also earned a scholarship to attend college at Shawnee State University. Those that did not pass this year are expected to return next school year for another chance, with about 22 seniors attending.

Cirasco called graduation the highlight of her year.

“They were absolutely so excited that one of them forgot their gown. They were so busy primping with their hat,” Ciraso said. “They were much more excited than most seniors, although most seniors are excited, and that’s because they didn’t think they were ever going to get there.”

She believes those students have a greater understanding of what that diploma means.

The Southern Ohio Academy will begin accepting applications for enrollment in June, and classes for the new school year begin Sept. 16 with new and updated curriculum for students. For more information, find the Academy online soavirtual.org, or call Ciraso at 740-259-6843 or toll-free at 800-271-8324, or e-mail pat.ciraso@sciototech.org. Students can also enroll at the Scioto County Career Technical Center campus, located at 951 Vern Riffe Drive, in Lucasville.

Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or rottney@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.