Successful COVID Pivot Inspires New Option for Students
By Liam Farrell
Photos courtesy of College Park Academy
As a pioneer in blending traditional and online learning, College Park Academy had to spend far less precious instructional time rethinking its operations than most schools when COVID-19 shut down in-person classes across the country.
Now the board of directors of the public charter school, which launched in 2013 with support from the University of Maryland, is doubling down on the lessons learned from those uncertain early months of the pandemic by offering a new fully virtual option for middle and high school students who may learn better online, travel frequently with their families or have ongoing health concerns.
CPA@Home is a state-approved private school that will mirror the in-person option with rigorous college prep courses, Pearson Connections Online and Blended Learning instructors, and dedicated CPA success coaches who map individual learning goals. It is available now for interested students from anywhere in the United States, and will fully launch for the 2023-24 school year.
“If you prove online learning is your forte, we are going to make sure you excel at it,” said Sandy Abu-Arja, CPA’s executive director. “They can study from anywhere. Children who due to their health conditions choose to go online … won’t even miss school.”
CPA, located in the Discovery District, now has nearly 700 students in grades 6-12. Founded as one of the nation’s first “bricks and clicks” schools, students attend in-person daily and take some courses taught by online teachers. It is ranked in the top 20% of Maryland high schools by U.S. News & World Report, has test scores higher than the average of neighboring counties and gets nine applications a year for each of its 120 available slots. With its close ties to UMD, CPA students also have access to college classes, clubs and events led by Terp professors and students.
“Our students and our parents trust us, and that’s why I think CPA@Home is going to be a success just like CPA on site,” Abu-Arja said.
Kimberly Griffin, dean of the UMD College of Education and a member of the CPA board, said she has been “impressed by CPA’s commitment to blended education” and hopes to continue to build on the partnership between the two schools, online and otherwise.
“Strong connections between the university and CPA students help give the students a picture of what they can become,” she said.
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