Andover's School Committee has voted against allowing Fusion Academy to operate as a private school in town.
Fusion Academy wanted to offer a different approach to school — a hybrid model that has 23 hours a semester of one-on-one learning supplemented with independent work, also known as asynchronous learning, for each class. According to plans submitted to the district, all students would be at the school even when learning asynchronously, so there would be teachers available to provide assistance during the independent learning time.
District officials said that this wouldn't be sufficient, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which has recently required all elementary and middle school students to receive in-person instruction five days a week. They recommended the committee vote against allowing the school.
"Commissioner (Jeffrey) Riley has made clear asynchronous learning is not the same," said Assistant Superintendent Sandra Trach.
If a student takes eight classes a semester throughout the academic year they have 368 hours of instruction, whereas Andover High School students get 935 hours of in-person instruction a year.
State law requires school committees to approve private schools in their district only if “its instruction equals the public schools in the same town in thoroughness and efficiency and that private students are making the same progress as public school students.”
The majority of the committee declined to grant the school approval for this discrepancy. Committee member Paul Murphy, who is a faculty member at Phillips Academy in Andover, was the only person to vote to allow Fusion Academy to operate as a private school.
This was the second attempt to allow the center to operate as a private school in the town.
Fusion Academy has been operating a learning center in Andover since 2019. This year they offered programs to supplement asynchronous learning days for the hybrid model public schools currently operate due to health concerns because of the pandemic.
Whitney Repetto, an Andover mother of a Fusion Academy student, spoke in favor of the district allowing the school. She enrolled her son in the hybrid supplemental program where he went to the academy on the days he was supposed to be remote in the Andover hybrid model.
"It was an absolute life-saver for us... We realized we might have the best academic year we've ever had," Repetto said. "The supplemental programming that they provided was phenomenal."
While the committee declined to approve the school, they did recognize the school helped students, especially over the past year.
"Under their current form they are doing good work for the families and students of Andover," said Shannon Scully, the committee chair, adding she hopes they keep their tutoring and supplemental academic programs.
Fusion Academy operates three other schools in Massachusetts, where school committees had to approve the plans. Fusion Academy in Newton opened in 2018, in Burlington in 2019 and in Hingham in 2020.