School district offers online learning option for students due to COVID-19

By offering online learning, Souderton is reducing the number of students in the schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Souderton is also offering a five-day in-person option for students.


Preparing for class…senior Katelyn Schuchardt completes classwork in her home for the Souderton Area Online Academy. Schuchardt is a fully virtual student this year. Photo reprinted with permission from Katelyn Schuchardt

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school district is offering an online schooling option for students of all grade levels to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
Approximately 20% of high school students have enrolled in the Souderton Area Online Academy.
For students attending the online academy, they must sign in on Schoology every morning and attend the scheduled live sessions for their classes.
According to staff developer Susan Van Saun, the online academy courses meet a variety of requests from students. There are also some teachers that are working completely online, and others have a mix of online and in-person classes.
According to computer science teacher Michael Olenick, the online academy is different from the spring 2020 online school.
“There’s a lot more accountability than there was last year. It’s more like a traditional classroom,” Olenick said. “I think we are trying to get back to a new norm.”
Principal Sam Varano agrees that there is more accountability in the online academy than during the 2020 spring semester.
“There was almost no accountability in the spring because I think we just had to survive it, but now, coming back, we had to make learning more rigorous and more accountable,” Varano said.
Social studies teacher Mary Moyer uses Microsoft Teams and Schoology as ways to communicate with her students. Moyer has adjusted her curriculum to online learning by “using technology and being aware of what technology is out there.”
To expand opportunities in the online academy, the high school is offering more rigorous courses through Brandywine Virtual Academy and an early college opportunity is offered to students through Montgomery County Community College.
The school district is using Brandywine Virtual Academy for some online courses because they have provided an online charter school for the district previously.
According to Varano, Souderton students currently make up 50% of the students dual-enrolled at Montgomery County Community College. Varano believes that the amount of students enrolled at Montgomery County Community college is because “people wanted more rigorous courses.”
Van Saun believes that students chose to enroll in the online academy for a variety of reasons.
“Some students chose it for obvious health reasons,” Van Saun said. “Other kids chose it because they thought that they wanted more flexibility in their schedule.”
Van Saun recommends that online students develop a routine so they are more successful in their learning experience.
“You should still be getting dressed, making sure you are eating breakfast, [and] getting lunch stuff ready,” Van Saun said. “Find a quiet, comfortable place to do your work, probably not in your bed.”
Moyer recommends that students are proactive and ask their teacher when they need help, so they do not fall behind.
According to Olenick, the online academy provides a unique opportunity for students.
“I think it’s a unique opportunity for students to experience just once. I think experiencing this for a semester could be a positive thing for them,” Olenick said.