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Enrollment already up 77% across Oklahoma's six virtual charter schools amid COVID-19 pandemic
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Enrollment already up 77% across Oklahoma's six virtual charter schools amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Parents looking to forgo any in-school instruction for 2020-21 have already sent student enrollment in Oklahoma’s statewide online public schools sky high, according to new information from a state education agency.

The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board has tracked Aug. 1 student enrollment since 2015 and found a year-over-year increase of nearly 77% between this year and the same time last year.

The data, showing 18,880 students in the state’s five virtual charter schools last year and 33,393 in the six such schools that now operate in Oklahoma, was presented to the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board at its monthly meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

“We use Aug. 1 (to track enrollment growth) because that was always the date by which they were given their initial state aid allocation. Now, it is a rollover from the prior year’s average daily membership,” said Rebecca Wilkinson, executive director of the board.

A number of local school districts across the state have established virtual school options for home-based learning, but many have put together new ones to give parents a choice for the new academic year as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

Every child in the state lives within the attendance boundaries and therefore has open enrollment access in the six statewide virtual charter schools currently sponsored by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, including one operated by Epic Charter Schools.

They are Epic One-on-One, E-School Virtual Charter Academy, Insight School of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Connections Academy, Oklahoma Information and Technology School, and Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy.

Epic One-on-One posted an 83% increase, from 14,647 students on Aug. 1, 2019, to 26,793 this Aug. 1, according to the statewide virtual board’s latest count.

Also seeing significant beginning of the year growth is Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy, up 52% from 2,503 students to 3,801.

But the school with the greatest one-year spike was E-School Virtual Charter Academy, which is based in Guthrie and opened for the first time last August with just 27 students.

This year, the school’s enrollment stands at 830 and counting, while its prepandemic expectation was for up to 600 students, said Phil Nichols, co-founder of E-School.

Tops among the traditional school districts from which this particular virtual charter school is attracting the most students is Oklahoma City, then Guthrie, and Tulsa and Edmond are tied for third, according to Nichols.

The larger-than-expected growth has E-School still in hiring mode to meet the needs of its new student caseload.

“We are actively interviewing and making offers to teachers and supporting staff members on a daily basis,” Nichols said. “We are hiring as quickly as we can as a result of the increased number of enrollments.”


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Andrea Eger

918-581-8470

andrea.eger@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @AndreaEger

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Staff Writer

I'm a projects reporter, examining key education topics and other local issues. Since joining the Tulsa World in 1999, I have been a three-time winner of Oklahoma’s top award for investigative reporting by an individual. Phone: 918-581-8470

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