Some educators seeing increase in families choosing alternative options to in-person learning this year

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 5:53 PM CDT
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MARION Iowa (KCRG) - While this Monday brought the first day of class for many, some students learned from the same place they started last year: from home.

Steven Hoff, with Iowa’s Virtual Academy, said that the first day started from behind the computer screen for their students.

“Much like last year, this year we’ve seen an increase with regards to enrollment,” Hoff said. “Due to the fact that COVID numbers are spiking and the variant, and I think families are starting to get a little leery and nervous with the idea school is here.”

Following the March 1 deadline for open enrollment, Hoff said about 800 students are currently enrolled in the academy. It’s about a 30% to 40% increase from recent years, where average enrollment was around 500.

Hoff said it’s becoming a more mainstream option for parents.

“One of the big concerns that I heard last year from families enrolling with us was the lack of a consistent education at the previous school, whether it was the fear of being in-person and having two weeks shut down and two weeks going virtual,” Hoff said.

Marion’s Homeschool Assistance Program is also seeing enrollment similar to last year, with 1,125 students enrolled.

“Certainly, last year we probably saw maybe 25 or 30 students that came to us as a result of the pandemic,” Tom Ertz, the director of the program, said.

Ertz said he can’t say how many parents who chose to homeschool last year are keeping that for this year, but said the reasons for homeschooling vary.

“They really want to tailor the education to what their child’s needs are,” Ertz said.

However, they do offer optional enrichment classes and activities on-site for students.

“It’s to be able to meet other children and do activities in a collaborative fashion,” Ertz said.

Regardless, Hoff said he expects these options to become more permanent in the future.

“I don’t see virtual education going anywhere. I see it getting stronger. I see the traditional districts trying to incorporate more virtual education,” Hoff said.

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