Thousands more than expected have signed up for Epic Charter Schools to start the 2020-2021 school year, as COVID-19 concerns throw traditional schooling into the virtual world.
The virtual charter school has nearly 39,000 students enrolled for the fall as of Wednesday, according to Epic Charter Schools Assistant Superintendent Shelly Hickman. Last year, the district enrolled just over 28,000 students.
“We were projecting growth for this school year, but nothing certainly as large as we’ve experienced in the last few weeks,” Hickman said. She added they expect to pass 40,000 before their first day in September.
In a survey, Hickman said about half of the district’s new families said the pandemic was a reason for the change. Hickman claimed about sixty percent of respondents claimed they did not plan to return to their previous school district after the pandemic is over.
“Parents need as many choices as they possible can because what’s going to work for one family or for one teacher this year is not going to work for another,” Hickman said. “So we are pleased to do our part.”
The increase puts Epic on pace to become the largest school district in the state.
Oklahoma City Public Schools, previously the largest district in the state, projects its student body will shrink by nearly 20 percent, from more than 42,000 to roughly 35,000.
Enrollment annually plays into the state’s funding formula for public schools. Official counts will be noted nine weeks into the school year and then again in December, according to Dr. Shawn Hime of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.
“Right before the beginning of the (calendar) year, they’ll know what that complete funding is for the full school year,” Hime said.
Public school districts across the state have the task of deciding whether to pivot, partially or entirely, to virtual courses this fall.
The state board of education on Wednesday voted to recommend health guidelines and practices, rather than require them.
Related: State Board Of Education Passes 'Return To Learn Oklahoma' Plan As A Suggestion Rather Than A Requirement