The Georgia Cyber Academy, currently operating at the bricks-and-mortar Odyssey Charter School in Newnan, Ga., got approval last week to expand its operations to K-12, the school announced in a news release.
The Georgia Charter Schools Commission unanimously approved a charter for the academy. The approved charter enables the academy, which is currently serving kindergarten through ninth grade, to expand to 12th grade to meet the growing demand from families across the state. The commission also established an equitable funding level that will allow the school to provide more teachers and offer art, music, foreign language and other elective classes to its students.
"Today's decision gives thousands of Georgia students and their parents a new option for a first-class education," said Ryan Mahoney, chairman of the academy board, in a statement issued Feb. 17. "We thank the Commission for recognizing GCA's strong track record in Georgia, and we look forward to welcoming new students this fall."
The State Board of Education can overrule a commission decision with a two-thirds majority vote within 60 days.
The academy is in its third year. It has met the state's "adequate yearly progress" goals under the federal No Child Left Behind Act for the past two years. As a public school, its tuition is free. As an online school, its enrollment is open to the entire state of Georgia's school-age population.
The school is affiliated with K12 Inc., which says it's the country's largest provider of proprietary curriculum and online school programs for students in kindergarten through high school.
Prior to last week's vote, the academy received a strong recommendation from the Georgia Charter Schools Commission review panel. The panel noted the school's strong and flexible academic program, which enables students to receive a customized education. The report also stated that the interview panel was "pleased to see the high academic performance of the GCA," noting that academy students averaged more than one year of grade level growth in math and reading in all grades.
The commission also cited the growing enthusiasm for the academy and the high demand for enrollment. The report stated: "GCA's waitlist for enrollment, which consistently numbers in the thousands, illustrates the demand for their services and the good reputation they are building among Georgia families seeking alternative educational opportunities for their students."
The commission's report added that Odyssey and Georgia Cyber Academy have agreed to separate their operations. The cyber academy currently serves 6,000 students and proposes to serve 8,500 students in K-10 next year and grow to about 16,500 students in K-12.
Online learning is one of the fastest-growing areas in education, according to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning. Online public charter schools, like Georgia Cyber Academy, are growing steadily across the country as their popularity continues to rise with parents, students and educators. A national report titled Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning shows that more than half the states in the U.S. now have full-time online public school options.