Online school goes for tech-minded

When Albero Beral sat down at a table in the Tower Salon A of the Westin Saint Francis Hotel this month and powered up his laptop, he logged on to his Spanish lesson for the day instead of readying himself for a conference.

Beral, a 15-year-old sophomore from Albany, was one of 50 students enrolled in The City’s newest charter school, San Francisco Flex Academy, a mixture of online course work and a traditional school setting.

Beral said he chose to transfer from his traditional high school to Flex Academy because of the course choices.

“I saw the audio engineering classes,” he said. “I’m really into that.”

Flex Academy, which opened its doors to students Sept. 7, is a public high school.

The school’s superintendent, Mark Kushner, describes it as a “hybrid” where students come to a school, but 80 percent of their work is online with access to 130 online courses through K12 Inc., and the remaining 20 percent will be classroom work. Students take five courses a semester.

Kushner, a commissioner on the state’s advisory commission on charter schools, said students will be required to meet A-G requirements — the minimum standards for acceptance to California state colleges and universities — as well as take required state standardized tests.

The school will also offer its students  extracurricular activities, including clubs and sports.

Patricia Danohue, lecturer in instructional technologies at San Francisco State University, said there are pros and cons to online instruction in the K-12 grades.

“Face-to-face is always the preferred method in the long run,” she said. “But the practicality and use of today brings advantages to the student as well.”

According to the California Department of Education, the charter school is active and under its own district. It receives direct funding from the state.

It does not need to apply through the San Francisco Unified School District because it has opened its doors to students throughout the Bay Area, not just San Francisco.

There is a pending application for a similar school to open under Flex Academy in Santa Clara County, according to state documents.

Kushner said the school’s operating budget is roughly $375,000 per year, or $7,500 in state and federal funding for every student enrolled. The school hopes to have 200 students by next year and will have a total capacity of 400 students.

It’s temporarily located in conference rooms of Union Square hotels, but the by the end of September, the school will call 555 Post St. — the former Press Club — home.

 

S.F. Flex Academy

50: Students

400: Student capacity

130: Online courses

$7,500: Per student in state and federal funding

Source: San Francisco Flex Academy

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