Online school: an alternative option for the fall

Oklahomans increase interest in virtual learning during the coronavirus pandemic

Online school: an alternative option for the fall
Shelly Hickman, Assistant Superintendent of Epic Charter Schools, explains how her school is free to the public and completely online. (Source: KSWO)

LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) -

Rather than choosing traditional brick and mortar schools, more and more Oklahomans are considering going to school online.

Epic Charter Schools had a 28 percent increased enrollment compared to last year before the pandemic struck. But interest in online schools has been around for a while. The online public school has been around for 10 years. Because the school gets its funding from the state, it’s free and will provide a computer or wifi to families that need one. 

”Parents are just so accustomed to. If it sounds too good to be true, maybe it is? And actually, when it comes to epic, that’s just not true,” said Epic Charter Schools Assistant Superintendent Shelly Hickman.

About 70% of the school’s virtual population is low-income, said Hickman. But the recent interest isn’t just about the pandemic.

“We’re [the school is] finding that about 60% of the families that are coming to us indicate that yes, it’s about the pandemic,” said Hickman. “But it’s also significant to us that 40% of the families coming to us say it has nothing to do with the pandemic. And 50% of the families that we surveyed indicated that they do not intend to go back to their previous school year when the pandemic is over.”

So what does the state think about the move to digital? An expert says teachers’ biggest hurdle is building those connections online. 

”Regardless of what program it is, whether that’s traditional or online, we believe that the teacher is the centerpiece of that,” said Espolt. He says that learning online is still learning and some online students graduate top of their class or have high ACT scores, just like any other school.

Ultimately, the decision is up to each Oklahoman family to decide what’s right for them, said Espolt.

“We’re going to always support the parents’ choice and the ability to pick the environment that’s best for their students,” said Espolt.

For a bit of good news, Espolt said he’s confident that the students will adapt quickly and everyone will come out of this pandemic stronger than before.

“As we get past this and come out of this, throughout this school year, we’re going to be able to meet the needs of students at a rate that we’ve never been able to do before, and we’re going to have more complete school systems and more in parent engagement into the school system,” said Espolt.

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