Interest in virtual classes expected to persist

Enrollment in Oak Harbor Virtual Academy, the school district’s asynchronous virtual learning model, is expected to stay fairly steady next year, school board members learned Monday.

Enrollment in Oak Harbor Virtual Academy, the school district’s asynchronous virtual learning model, is expected to stay fairly steady next year, school board members learned Monday.

Hand-in-Hand Early Learning Center, HomeConnection and Oak Harbor Virtual Academy school principal Shane Evans said enrollment during the 2020-21 school year began at 278 full-time students in Oak Harbor Virtual Academy.

Enrollment at the academy fell to 198 in May, a change that Evans attributed to students switching to Distance Plus, which gives students more real-time learning online, or going to hybrid in-person learning.

Evans expected enrollment to be about 250-270 next year, although the school district is still finalizing information for families about signing up for fall classes.

Evans said he has hired eight more staff to keep up with the demand. Most of the new hires will be full-time teachers in grades kindergarten through fifth.

Evans said he is looking for a common space for teachers to use when leading a virtual class next year. They were able to teach at their former schools or at home this year.

Home Connection, the school district’s parent partnership program for homeschooling, saw a bump.

There were approximately 60-65 more students this school year than normal, Evans said.

“That is a direct reflection of the times we’re in,” he explained.

Hand-in-Hand Early Learning Center enrollment also increased. The school focuses on preparing its youngest students for kindergarten and working with those who need extra help.

Although there is normally an increase in enrollment throughout the year, Evans said the lack of in-person Head Start programs, another resource for young students, pushed Oak Harbor’s enrollment up.

The school added 40 students, about the size of one and a half classrooms, over the course of the year.

The early learning program has doubled in size for the number of teachers it employs and close to double the number of students in the past five years, he said.

The school district estimated in February that its overall enrollment would decline next year to 5,450 students across all of its programs, which includes 240 HomeConnection and 260 Oak Harbor Virtual Academy students.

There were 5,483 full-time equivalent students enrolled in the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.

It had been climbing steadily for the past eight years before the pandemic.

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