Local districts see rise in online enrollment, expand options for next school year

Virtual learning
Posted at 5:52 PM, Apr 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-30 08:32:24-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — With the school year coming to an end, it's now time for parents to start making decisions for next year.

Open enrollment has just started for most districts, but some are already seeing an increase in online learning options.

"We have just opened up our enrollment, but we have already seen families interested in joining Aspire Online Academy," said Tayla Young, Principal of Aspire Online Academy.

While some may be ready to say goodbye to online learning forever, educators say others are hoping it's here to stay.

"They would love for them to have that collaboration, to be able to have that in-person option, to be able to work asynchronously," said Young.

To provide parents with more options and flexibility, the district launched Aspire Online Academy which will provide asynchronous (independent pacing) and synchronous (teacher-led) learning experiences. AOA staff will offer both virtual and in-person environments.

"It won't look like that traditional look of we're in a class all day, we're sitting, teachers are constantly lecturing. It will be an interactive hands-on approach from the virtual work, but also allowing the opportunity for our students to interact and collaborate with each other," said Young.

The new online school will also be available to students across the state.

"They can be in Englewood, they can be in Denver. They would be able to choice in, fill out everything electronically, they wouldn't even need to physically make the drive down," said Young.

Another brand new online option seeing a lot of interest, Colorado Springs District 11's Spark Online Academy serving students in grades K-8.

"We are seeing a big bump in our enrollment right now, especially as people close out this school year and people are thinking about options for next school year," said Julie Johnson, Principal of Spark Online Academy.

It was after hundreds of families left the district seeking more online opportunities that Spark Online Academy was created.

"This is a response to what we'd been seeing in our enrollment trends for many years. It's being responsive to what our community needs," said Johnson.

She says families are continuing with online learning because they either prefer it or have lingering concerns over COVID-19.

"There are a little bit of both, health concerns and this really worked for my student," said Johnson.

The district also has another online service, Achieve, for students in grades 6-12 who may struggle with the in-person traditional middle and high school atmospheres. All of the district's high schools will offer a remote learning opportunity for students who choose to remain online.

Both districts say these new online schools will be sticking around, long after the pandemic is over.

"In our District 11 community, this is a permanent school, this is not a temporary pandemic response. This is something that's been considered prior to the pandemic," said Johnson.

"Our virtual school is not let's see what happens, it is a physical choice school that is within Harrison School District and we will continue to grow and build from our beginning year," said Young.