Parents are facing tough decisions as the school year looms: Should they keep their children in school, or pull them and send them to a school that's already prepared for distance learning?
K12 Inc. is the largest online education provider in the K through 12 space. They serve 30 states, with 6,000 teachers around the country and 120,000 students. Distance learning is what they do best, and these days, they're getting flooded.
It's what Kevin Chavous, K12's President of Academics, says is "dramatic" increase in interest from parents. They've received thousands of applications since the spring.
"These are families that otherwise wouldn't consider a virtual option, but all of them say the same thing — they're so fearful about their kids' safety," Chavous said. "They're educated consumers, shopping around trying to figure out options."
Most of the calls to K12 are coming from heavily-involved parents. They want to know the data; they want to know about the education, the structure, the sports, and the possibility of meetups.
"A lot of the data we look at shows that anywhere from 10% to 40% of the average public school parent says there's no way they'll send their kid back to the brick-and-mortar school they're going to — not because they have problems, but they're deathly afraid of the safety issue," Chavous said.
Parents everywhere have questions, and they want answers. Chavous addressed the school's biggest selling point.
"Well, we've been doing it longer, and we do it better and we've refined what we do," he said.
Nearly 500 of K12's teachers have enrolled in a Master's in Education in Online Instruction.
It was a fast switch to online learning that jolted parents this past spring, and it's something that Southern California mom Christy Hartman doesn't want to do again.
"I can't do another semester of what we experienced last year," she said. "It was disjointed, she was a 5th grader and spent about 45 minutes a day (e-learning) — no live instruction from teachers at all."
Hartman says she's decided that if her local school district continues full-time distance learning, she'll pull her child and send her to Sage Oak — a large regional charter school that offers personalized learning.
Kids at Sage Oak meet in person once every 20 school days, and the rest is teacher-guided, teacher-supported instruction, led by parents at home.
Sage Oak was prepared for the pandemic before it ever happened.
"We didn't have to make a ton of changes," said Chelsey Anema, the school's student services coordinator. "We did have to go virtual — which is unfortunate because we love and value the time we get to meet with students each month — but we are equipped with meeting virtually, so it wasn't a huge struggle for us."
Anema says Sage Oak is getting between 50 and 60 new student applications a day. It's a demand they can't meet due to a new bill that caps school funding and enrollment in California.
Parents have some choices to make. And K12 recommends that parents do their homework.
"Call all of us. Call the school district. Ask those questions, seek better answers," Chavous said. "This is a precious time for America as we go through this education reset and global reset, and we have to do it right. You only have one chance to educate your child."