‘It’s what we do’: Online charter school plans for enrollment increase

Originally published by WISC-TV – July 22, 2020

As many public school districts figure out how best to provide students with virtual learning this fall, a state online charter school said it’s planning for a likely increase in enrollment.

The Wisconsin Virtual Academy is based in the McFarland School District, but students can enroll from all over the state.

Head of School Fadia Afaneh said typical enrollment is about 2,400 students, but she expects that number will go up if the increase in calls and emails from families requesting information is any indication.

“For any families that choose to join us, there’s at least less of this, trying to figure this out, because we’ve got this. It’s our jam. It’s what we do,” Afaneh said. “We’re not new. We’ve been doing this for several years, and so stability and normalcy right now is, I think, something everybody is looking for.”

The charter school is hiring more teachers, along with revamping its teacher training program and start program for families with the anticipated increase in enrollment.

“At no fault to the public schools, that’s a big learning curve,” Afenah said.

It’s a learning curve many brick-and-mortar schools have to face as many districts decide to go partly or all virtual.

Dawn Nordine is executive director of Wisconsin Virtual School, a state-led program that’s been around for 20 years providing supplemental online instruction for grades six through 12. For example, the program offers teachers and coursework for students who want to take an online course that may not be available in their district.

“What’s happening now which is taking our breath away, is that a lot of districts are trying to figure out what to do with the parents and families that are choosing that they really are not comfortable for whatever reason to return,” Nordine said. “Schools — we serve over half the districts in the state —  are calling us up, and new schools too, saying can you help us with these ten or 20 or 100 families.”

Wisconsin Virtual School can provide districts with resources to help, like instructional material for teachers in schools.

“To develop a quality virtual program, it doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen in six months, either, but I think there are enough resources if schools reach out, they can really try to make the best of it,” Nordine said. “Maybe a good thing out of this is schools who were not offering options for students are seriously thinking about it now.”

To learn more about Wisconsin Virtual Academy, visit https://wiva.k12.com/

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