Octorara Area High School

Octorara Area High School shown in a photo from June 13, 2012.

Octorara Area School District is trying to determine why children and their families are choosing charter schools and cybercharter schools, as the district pursues a strategy to attract and retain students.

Superintendent Michele Orner presented the results of two surveys during the April 8 school board meeting.

The first survey of students who left the district for a charter school or cybercharter school and then returned to Octorara was sent to 27 families with only six replies received. Most frequent reasons for returning were student support services, gifted programs and athletics.

The second survey of families with students who left the district for charter or cybercharter schools and have not come back were sent to 82 families. Out of the 28 responses, 17 started their education at the charter schools in kindergarten, and five in first grade. Reasons for choosing charter schools included smaller class size, honors and accelerated courses, STEM classes, art and bullying.

“Parents are judging a school system their child never attended,” Orner said.

The low number of surveys returned was a concern for the board. Members also expressed frustration that people do not seem to realize the high quality of programming offered at Octorara.

The board discussed the possibility of marketing the district in a better way, particularly among families of preschoolers. One possibility is to have kindergarten teachers visit preschools to meet the youngsters.

During the meeting the board also heard a presentation by high school science chair William McWatters on current programs and how the department is working to improve test scores. The presentation is the latest in a series of information from department chairs as the district works toward a school improvement plan.

McWatters predicted the reintroduction two years ago of full-year science programming in fifth and sixth grade will result in improved science scores at the high school. “The feedback from junior high school teachers is they are better prepared, They’ve seen a benefit with these kids in the classroom,” he said.

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