SAN ANTONIO – Is online learning the future of education?
While it may not have worked for some families during the COVID-19 pandemic, others say it brought flexibility to their schedules and a sense of safety for their children.
In Texas, there’s already a handful of public online schools that are Texas Education Agency accredited campuses and provide a 100% virtual instructional program to students.
One of these virtual schools is the Texas Online Preparatory School.
The school is part of the Texas Virtual School Network, or TXVSN, that was established by the Texas legislature in 2007 to provide students with equitable access to quality online courses.
“Students are everywhere. From El Paso to all the way to Texarkana,” said Forrest Smith, head of school at Texas Online Preparatory School.
Smith said there’s been more interest from families across Texas amid the pandemic.
“We had about 3,000 students at the end of last school year, so we’ve grown by 2,200 students,” Smith said.
Northside ISD parent Jenny Maldonado said her kids have been learning online during the pandemic.
“We’ll probably keep them in virtual learning, at least until the numbers go way down, or we can all get vaccines,” Maldonado said.
Monica Martinez with the Texas Education Agency said if local school districts want to open a full-time virtual school, there needs to be changes to the state law.
“There’s currently a provision in state law that limits the amount of funding that a district can get for serving a student in a virtual environment. And part of the challenges, we currently fund schools based on student attendance. So when you’re talking about a virtual environment, the lack of attendance means that we have to have a proxy for that attendance,” Martinez said.