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Frequently Asked Questions

General Information:

Academics:

Socialization:

Enrollment Process:

Technology:

Other:

 

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Who may attend PALCS?

Any student residing in Pennsylvania may attend the K-12 program offered by PALCS.  Students under the age of 21 may attend in order to finish their High School education. 

Information on foreign students may be found here.

The PA Leadership Charter School has as its focus and mission to provide a full educational cyber school experience for students in grades K-12.  These policies further the mission of the school by allowing any student to attend PALCS without regard to race, religion, sex or ethnic background or any other factor used to discriminate against groups.

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What does PALCS cost?

PALCS is a public school and as such is required to provide a free and appropriate education to any student in Pennsylvania who wishes to attend.  PALCS provides at no cost:

  • Desktop computer, monitor, printer and computer accessories
  • Curriculum (textbooks and online curriculum)
  • Teachers at the school administrative offices providing instruction and interaction with parents and students daily.
  • High speed Internet connections for each student (reimbursable)
  • Student Services staff that archive records and interact with the local school district on behalf of the parent / student
  • Counselors that provide vocational and secondary education counseling, and Individual Program of Instruction for each student
  • Special Education programs for students with IEP’s and a Child Find process to identify students with special education needs
  • Periodic on site instruction for gifted students

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What Special Education opportunities are available at PALCS?

For some Special Education students, PALCS is the ideal school.  All our teachers are trained to provide an Individual Program of Instruction for every child.  This uniquely prepares them for students with IEP’s.  PALCS has a full-service Special Education Division with Special Ed teachers working directly with parents / students and other regular ed teachers.  PALCS can provide in home related services throughout the state to students with unique needs and does provide telephone / Internet counseling for needs that can be provided via the Internet.

Please visit the Special Education section of our website for more information.  You may also wish to view this informational .pdf document designed for parents, regarding Special Education in Charter Schools:

http://www.palcs.org/specialed.pdf

 

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Why might my child do better in a cyber school than in a regular brick and mortar school?

Individualized pacing and scheduling

PALCS is an ideal place for students who wish to advance at a pace suitable for their learning needs.  Students usually have about a three-week window in which they can complete their work, allowing students to work ahead or spend extra time on assignments as necessary.  This setup helps:

  • Gifted students who wish to advance at a pace faster than other educational settings will allow
  • Special Education students who need the safety and support of a home environment to succeed
  • Students who want to take specialized courses – we can partner with many colleges and universities to offer courses not normally offered.
  • Children of families that travel often and will have Internet access at their destination
  • Athletes participating on junior Olympic teams that create unusual scheduling needs
  • Focusing on the arts and need extra time to develop their talents

PALCS is not just a school for students with unusual schedules or needs.  It can be a great place for any student who has a supportive Home Facilitator and would enjoy learning via the Internet. 

Because we have combined the best interactive curriculum with teachers on line every day, students are engaged more with the material and with their teachers than in the more traditional brick and mortar setting.  This is why students may progress faster than in other settings.

Health, Safety and the Home Environment

PA Leadership minimizes harmful socialization.  We reduce the risk of drugs, alcohol, gangs, fights, unhealthy teasing and the fear associated with an unsafe environment.  Our school is optimal for students who may have trouble attending school for health reasons.

PALCS is also an advantageous choice for young parents.  We provide a support group for teenage parents with both an online component and, for those living near our Pittsburgh office, in-person group meetings.

Cyber school provides the home-based education environment that many families value, but without the pressure of parents creating the lessons, grading the work, and doing the paperwork required by the Commonwealth in order to homeschool.  Qualified, experienced teachers work over the Internet to bring the instruction right into the safety and comfort of the student's home.  Parents or other guardians serve as Home Facilitators (HFs) and monitor student's progress and provide basic guidance. 

By eliminating time zappers – busing, changing of classes, lunch, homeroom and discipline issues – students are able to complete their schoolwork in a fraction of the time it would take to do the same work in a brick and mortar school, so families have extra time to network with their community.  Students may build friendships with the faith-based community, community sports teams, neighbors and other home based learning groups.

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Why attend PA Leadership Charter School?

Several factors make PALCS a unique cyber school experience:

  • We have PA certified teachers, many with life experience in the subject they teach, who actually provide instruction.  All assignments are created by teachers, which are posted for students to complete in a three-week time period. 
  • Our families have daily interaction with teachers.  Teachers host live classrooms, provide individual instruction and send daily mail to students.
  • Most course work is instantly graded.  For written lessons, assignments are graded and responded to by teachers.  Grades are electronically recorded in a continuous gradebook that is accessible to students and parents at all times.
  • Our curriculum comes from a variety of publishers and has been carefully chosen to work best in the home setting.  We partner with the finest online curriculum resource companies in the nation, and many of our textbooks have online components. 
  • PALCS teachers design their own courses, drawing upon the best resources available.  Our courses are enhanced with the teacher's personal style.
  • Many courses have guest lecturers who are experts in their field.
  • PALCS provides a challenging, complete course of study for students in grades K-12.  Many of our courses are more rigorous than a normal school course and all of our courses provide extra curricular opportunities.

PALCS believes that good communication skills are important for effective leadership. Our program of instruction emphasizes computer skills, typing skills and writing skills from an early age.

PALCS is a privately run cyber charter school, as opposed to some charter schools which are run by specific school districts

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What are the parent and student policies at PALCS?

You may view our 2006-2007 Parent/Student Handbook here.  Our 2007-2008 handbook is being updated and will be available soon.

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How do I attend school?

Our school is run on a password-protected website, accessible by any computer with Internet access, anywhere in the world.  You do not need any special software - just an Internet connection and a unique username and password that will be provided to every student and parent.  

Our unique website, referred to as the portal, was designed from the ground up to provide full interaction between students, home facilitators and teachers.  The portal provides:

  • Teacher-created lessons that take full advantage of the Internet, with embedded images, sound, and video, as well as links to external educational websites
  • Multimedia classrooms with real-time features:
    • voice and text chat (video in development)
    • interactive whiteboard
    • synchronized web browsing
  • Flexible testing that is able to challenge even the most gifted student
  • Automatically graded tests that produce instant results and explanations of correct answers; also, the ability for teachers to grade and respond to open questions
  • Instantly updated grades to a student’s online progress report, viewable to the parent and student alike
  • Access to the most complete, up-to-date curriculum through digital versions of many of our textbooks
  • The ability to communicate with each teacher and student in several modes:
    • Lectures
    • Guided discussion
    • Free discussion
    • SchoolMail (internal and protected from spam)
    • Multimedia Classroom

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Is there an online time requirement?

Students are required to log on every school day – this is typically every Monday through Friday, with exceptions for holidays and in-service days.  There is no set hourly time that a student must attend school. 

When a student logs on, attendance is recorded for the day.  Then he or she should check announcements, SchoolMail, and lessons for all classes.  Once lessons are complete, a student can be finished with school for the day or choose to work ahead. 

A student is not required to log on at any particular hour of the day, so long as he or she logs on at some point during the school day.  This is particularly convenient for students who have part-time jobs.

While weekends and school holidays do not make up for missed days, students may even do schoolwork on the weekend or a school holiday if he or she is behind on work or will be going on a trip.  Absences work just like in a public school – excuses must be submitted by parents for missed days.

The one exception to flexible online time is for multimedia chats on the web portal.  These take place at a time set in advance by teachers but, in most cases, are not mandatory and are recorded for students unable to attend.  Certain elective classes like journalism and foreign languages do require chat attendance, but a student will be aware of such a requirement when he or she completes course selection.

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What courses are offered and what curriculum is used?


You can view PALCS' Course Description Manual here.

PALCS utilizes the best materials from several different publishing companies and online resources.  Our curriculum is updated each year based on parents' suggestions and based on internal review.  To see what materials our individual courses use, please view our course description manual.

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Does PALCS offer a diploma similar to other public schools?


Yes.  Academically, PALCS is a full curriculum, full service K-12 school and offers High School diplomas that are equivalent to other public High Schools. 

In order to be eligible for graduation, students shall have met PA Academic Standards by earning passing grades in the following required subjects:

  • Four credits of English
  • Three credits of Math
  • Three credits of Science
  • Three credits of Social Studies
  • One credit of Technology
  • One credit of Health, Safety and Physical Education
  • One-half credit of Arts and Culture
  • One-half credit of Arts and Humanities
  • Four elective credits

Credits will be counted for courses passed in 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade.  Students transferring from home school programs will be awarded credits based on previous evaluations.

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What is the school calendar for PALCS?


As is typical of any public school, PA Leadership is open 180 days and runs a schedule similar to other public schools with holidays, winter break and spring break.  Our first day is in September and the school year ends in June.

CLICK HERE to see our 2007-2008 Calendar (Adobe .pdf file.)

PALCS does NOT currently offer summer courses.

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May PALCS students take some courses in a local school and the rest at PALCS?


Yes.  This must require the permission and active participation of the local school district / school / teacher and must be arranged by the parent.

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May a student take selected courses from PALCS and take the rest from a private or homeschool source?


No.  Students at PALCS are full time students at the school.  PA Leadership encourages enrichment activities beyond the courses offered at the school.  The school courses, however, cover all PA State Educational Standards.  These courses may not be substituted with other courses except for the partnerships that PALCS may establish with the student’s local school district.

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How does PALCS score on standardized testing?

You can check our scores on the PSSA and learn about Adequate Yearly Progress here.

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What opportunities does PALCS provide for students to interact?


One of the most often-asked questions we get from those unfamiliar with a cyber charter school is, “What about the socialization issues?  What will the school do to ensure that the students learn how to interact with the world around them?”

Students at PALCS are participating in interactive learning every day.  They interact with the curriculum, teachers and their classmates in a digital medium.  Grade level-based open chats (as opposed to subject-based educational chats) are hosted for students roughly once a month in the multimedia classrooms so students can talk freely to their peers.   

PALCS holds exciting and educational monthly field trips and events for students.  Some examples of field trips we have held or are currently planning:

 

  • Museums (Natural History; Art; Science; History Center; Children's Museum)
  • Zoos
  • Renaissance Faire, Fall Fests, and other outdoor events
  • Kennywood and Hershey Park Science Days
  • Circus, Stars on Ice, and other shows
  • Fiddlesticks Symphony, Shakespeare plays, and other cultural events
  • Miniature Golfing
  • Movies (Chronicles of Narnia, Charlotte's Web)
  • Picnics
  • Workshops
  • Meet & Greets with teachers
  • Senior High Prom

 

Regional activity coordinators in various parts of the state will organize events for students state-wide that will be conveniently located.

Additionally, home facilitators are encouraged to enhance a student's learning experience by having them participate in community activities – sports, youth groups, extra-curricular activities, volunteering, jobs, etc.

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May PALCS students participate in local school district extra curricular activities?

Yes, according to BEC 24 P.S. § 17-1719-A (14,) students are permitted to participate in extracurricular activities offered by their home school district provided that they are not offered by PALCS.  Students must comply with the policies and meet the specific eligibility requirements established by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.  Students who are members of a sports team with their home school district must continue to meet grade requirements to be part of the team.  Coaches needing academic information from PALCS must make a request in writing to the Student Services Director and provide their e-mail addresses.  PALCS will only notify the home district when grades fall below a "C."  Weekly updates cannot be accommodated.  Whenever possible, PALCS will assist students and parents to secure the opportunity to participate in the extracurricular activities for which they are eligible.

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What is the enrollment process?


The enrollment forms may be downloaded here.  Please complete all forms and obtain additional required documentation:

  • copy of birth certificate
  • proof of residence
  • immunization record
  • transcript
  • the ER and IEP for Special Education students

Medical records do not need to be sent with the packet initially, but they must be received by the end of the school year.

Once your packet is complete, please mail it to PALCS office nearest you.  Once we have received your paperwork, you will be notified within 1-2 business days of its receipt.  At that time, we will schedule your orientation.  Please allow 1-3 weeks for an orientation date. 

Both the student and home facilitator MUST come to the orientation, which will occur at the PALCS office nearest you.  An orientation will NOT be scheduled until your packet is complete.

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How long must I wait to enroll?


At the present time, PALCS is enrolling students in all grades.  There may be times during the year that the school will temporarily suspend enrollment.  Parents / students may e-mail or call the school to discover if the school is in this temporary status (info@palcs.org or 610-701-3333.)

After the school receives the completed enrollment forms, students may be enrolled.  Students are not officially enrolled in PALCS until after an orientation has been completed.  In order to avoid truancy, a student must remain in attendance at his or her current school until the orientation date.

Online classes may be activated immediately.  Textbooks may take days / weeks to arrive depending on availability.  PALCS has agreements with IBM, HP and NCS to provide computers to the school.  If a student has a computer they can use, they may immediately enroll while they wait for the school to send a computer.  Computers may be shipped within days if immediately available and may be shipped within weeks if they need to be ordered from the manufacturer.

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Does the parent have to notify the local school district that their student is enrolled in PALCS?


In the enrollment process, the parent will sign a form that enables the school to contact the student’s local school district to notify them concerning enrollment and to have the student’s records sent to PALCS. 

Within 15 days of enrollment, the parent or guardian and the cyber charter school shall notify the student's school district of residence of the enrollment through the enrollment notification form, included in the enrollment packet.

PALCS does not request student records (transcripts, medical records) from your former school until after a student is enrolled.  As these documents are required for the enrollment packet, families should contact the school and request these documents before beginning the enrollment process. 

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Do I have to travel to the office?

Students complete all schoolwork from home, so in most cases, office trips are not necessary.  However, there are two situations that require your presence:

 

  1. Once an enrollment packet is processed, the school requires both the pending student and the Home Facilitator (HF) visit the PALCS office nearest them for an orientation. 
  2. State-mandated PSSA testing must be administered every year for selected grades.  PALCS will set up multiple locations throughout the state for the convenience of families so they should not have to travel further than one hour to reach the testing site.

 

Additionally, PALCS offers field trips / activities to all students enrolled in the school.  These are optional, but transportation will often have to be provided by the family.

 

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What kind of computer / equipment is provided?


PALCS provides a new, state of the art computer with software and internal storage sufficient to hold all school programs / materials.  Additional equipment includes:

  • Monitor
  • Keyboard
  • Speakers
  • Headphones / microphone
  • 3 in 1 printer for printing, scanning and copying

The school warranties the computer / equipment for normal wear and tear.  Parents are responsible for paper / print cartridges and damage to the computer for software not provided by the school.

Parents may purchase the computer for the market price after the student’s third year at the school.  Students who withdraw from PALCS must return all equipment / textbooks to the school.  PALCS will provide a transportation carrier contract to enable the parent to return this equipment / material with no cost to the parent. 

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If I do not know much about computers, can I effectively serve as the Home Facilitator?
PALCS provides detailed instruction on how to set up the school computer and has a phone help desk to answer any questions.  PALCS provides a Power Point presentation on the school computer that explains how the school works.  Student Services is available from 9 AM - 4 PM daily (sometimes earlier and later) to answer any questions you might have.  Teachers are also available daily to help explain the working of the school.  Curriculum tutorials are available for parents / students to introduce them to the technology.  A basic understanding of computers is necessary to get set up and functioning.

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Can religious studies be provided?


As a public school, PALCS may not teach sectarian religious instruction.  Any public school may teach courses such as Comparative Religions and The History of (name of religion).  In addition, parents may request an opportunity for religious instruction for their children that is facilitated by the school but not paid for by the school.  Parents are also free to provide any instruction in their home that they believe complements the curriculum taught by the school.  Parents may form groups separate from the school to facilitate this instruction.  The role of the PALCS teacher is to neither encourage nor discourage any expression of religious thought that is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

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Can individual religious practices be accommodated?


PALCS will attempt to accommodate any reasonable request from parents.  For example, parents who do not believe in teaching music may opt their child out of any music courses.  Courses like Kindergarten reading, using the “Sing, Spell, Read and Write” curriculum, will not be replaced.  It will be the parents' responsibility to adapt the curriculum to their own religious beliefs.

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What opportunities for participation are there for parents beyond the Home Facilitator?

  • PALCS networks parents both geographically and across grade levels.  Parents are asked to provide leadership for these groups to encourage field trips, study partners / groups and other activities designed by parents for the benefit of the student(s).  PALCS has hired parent representatives to facilitate this process.
  • PALCS Board of Directors holds their meeting once a month.  Parents are welcome to attend, but should contact the school in advance of the meeting to obtain meeting times and agenda(s). Meetings will be held on the following dates:
    • August 2, 2006
    • September 6, 2006
    • October 4, 2006
    • November 1, 2006
    • December 6, 2006
    • January 10, 2007
    • February 7, 2007
    • March 3, 2007
    • April 11, 2007
    • May 2, 2007
    • June 6, 2007
  • Parents can be hired by the school as:
    • Teachers – on site only
    • Teacher aides – generally on site only
    • Support staff – on site only

 

  • Parents can be very helpful with public relations for the school.
    • State legislators need to know that their effort(s) to provide this alternative form of education is appreciated.
    • Local newspapers like to cover the stories of local families that have broader policy implications.
    • Most students attending PALCS have discovered the school via word of mouth.
    • Parents with artistic abilities could help design materials / website(s).
    • Radio talk shows are glad to have guests with unique stories.
    • Many communities have public access cable television for the local community.
    • When media outlets call us, we like to have parents to refer them to enable them to see the school from the student’s point of view.

 

  • Parents can be helpful with fund raising for the school.  Various programs / grants are available to enable local PA businesses to contribute to projects for the school and receive up to 90% tax break on their donation(s).

 

  • Building on the strong emphasis on the participation of the Home Facilitator, PALCS encourages parents to provide any ideas that could help strengthen the school.
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