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Epic to cut staff after losing 60% of new students driven there during pandemic, Oklahoma's largest online school says

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Epic Charter Schools is implementing a reduction in force because “three out of five kids who came to EPIC due to the pandemic have chosen to return to their home districts,” it announced Tuesday.

At the school system’s October governing board meeting, school leaders said Epic currently enrolls a total of 38,556 students between its two schools, which would represent an overall decline of around 35% since Epic’s pandemic all-time high. That number includes students who were already enrolled at Epic as well as the new students who chose that route because of the pandemic.

The statewide virtual charter school called Epic One-on-One now counts 22,946 students, and Epic Blended Learning Centers, which offers a blend of online and in-person learning, now has 15,610 students in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties.

During the noon hour Tuesday, Epic Superintendent Bart Banfield posted on Epic’s website and shared to its social media channels an announcement to students and parents titled: “We’re right-sizing as our enrollment normalizes.”

Screenshot of Tuesday's announcement from Epic

He said that at the height of the pandemic, Epic’s staff grew as its enrollment “ballooned to nearly 61,000 kids, but now that life is returning to normal, we have seen an expected decline in enrollment.”

“For those of you who have chosen to stay with us: thank you. We are honored to serve your kids, and we’re proud to have come through such difficult days with your help and support. Serving our students fully and efficiently is at the heart of all we do, and that’s why we now have some difficult decisions to make in terms of staffing.”

On Friday, Epic reportedly began a reduction in force that Banfield said will continue through November, although he did not specify the number of employees being cut.

Epic currently employs 1,988 people. Of those, 494 are considered noninstructional, while 1,494 provide direct support to students, according to the school.

“Our goal through this process is to create the least amount of disruption to our students. This is a painful time, but it’s critical that we build long-term stability and viability into our organization so we can continue serving kids for generations to come,” Banfield wrote.

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