Questions and Answers
Cyber Charter Schools and the Use of Physical Facilities
Is PDE trying to close cyber
Answer: No; the letter sent to all cyber charter schools on August 18, 2015 was not
sent for the purpose of closing or revoking the charter of any cyber charter
did PDE send the so-called cease and desist letter (the August Letter) to cyber
charter schools regarding the use of physical facilities?
Answer: This letter was sent to all cyber charter schools reminding them of the
appropriate uses of physical facilities by cyber charters as set forth in
Pennsylvania law governing cyber charter schools.  In
addition, PDE issued specific guidance on the issue of cyber charter schools
use of physical locations in a Basic Education Circular issued in July 2013
The letter was sent following complaints from several school districts that
some cyber schools were using physical facilities in the education of their
students beyond the scope of the cyber charter laws, PDE guidance, and their
What are the rules about the use of
physical locations by cyber charter schools?
Answer: Cyber charter schools may use physical
locations ONLY for (1) standardized testing and or/other testing; (2) tutoring;
and (3) supplemental services related to special education, such as speech
therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy. Students may be at physical
locations only for the time needed to participate in these services and
Did the August Letter contain new
rules, mandates, or directives to cyber schools regarding use of physical
Answer: No, the August Letter does NOT describe any new mandate or directive from PDE
to cyber charters regarding permitted use of physical facilities. The August Letter reminds cyber schools of
the guidance originally set forth in state law and in the BEC.
is a cyber-charter school?
Answer: As noted in the BEC, a cyber-charter school is a charter
school authorized by PDE pursuant to statute to "offer a structured education
program in which the school utilizes technology in order to provide a
significant portion of its curriculum and instruction through the Internet or
other electronic means without a school-established requirement that the
student be present at a supervised physical facility designated by the school,
except on a very limited basis, such as for standardized tests."
is the difference between a cyber-charter and any other kind of charter?
Answer: A non-cyber charter school, sometimes called
a brick-and-mortar charter, is physically located within the boundaries of a
school district and the local school board (or School Reform Commission in
Philadelphia) grants the charter to the charter school's board of trustees to
operate a public charter school. The charter
is an agreement between the school district and an incorporated entity, known
as a charter school. As noted in the BEC,
brick and mortar charter schools "focus on teacher-led discussion and teacher
knowledge imparted to students through face-to-face interaction at the schools'
As noted above, a cyber charter school is a charter school that provides instruction
through the internet or other digital means. PDE is responsible for the
oversight of cyber charter schools which includes approval of the initial
instruction on a regular basis is a feature of a brick and mortar charter
school and specifically NOT a feature of a cyber-charter school.
has PDE told cyber-charter schools that they cannot operate physical learning
Answer: PDE has NOT told any cyber charter that the
cyber charter may not operate physical learning centers. In the August Letter and in the BEC, PDE
reminded cyber charters of the proper use of physical locations by cyber-charter
schools, e.g., for tutoring, for testing, or for supplemental services for
special education students.
doesn't PDE support what appears to be a successful program of "blended
learning" (online and face-to-face learning opportunities) offered by cyber
charter schools that seem to be benefiting students?
Answer: PDE supports many successful blended learning
programs. However, the "blended learning"
program offered by some cyber-charter schools are not authorized by the cyber
charter law, or PDE guidance.
charter schools offer blended learning opportunities?
Answer: Yes, but since cyber-charter schools are to provide
a significant portion of their curriculum and instruction through the internet
or other electronic means without the need for students to be present at any
physical facility, the appropriate strategy for a charter school to offer
blended learning is to seek authorization for a brick-and-mortar charter school
from a school district.
Why are cyber-charter schools and
parents just being told now about this rule that cyber-charter schools can't
have physical locations?
Answer: Cyber-charter schools have been told about the limitation on the use of
physical facilities for a number of years, including through the BEC issued in
2013. Additionally, PDE advises new
cyber charter school applicants of the limitations on the use of physical
 Pennsylvania law governing cyber charter schools
Charter School Operations and Proper Use of Physical Facilities