Duval Virtual Instruction Academy enrollment doubles amid pandemic

The Florida Times Union | By Emily Bloch | June 29, 2020

This summer, enrollment more than doubled for Duval Virtual Instruction Academy — the district’s full-time online school — compared to the same time frame last year according to public records.

When the 2019-20 school year got turned upside down because of the coronavirus, the way class was taught changed. For the first time, Duval County Public Schools — and other school districts across Florida and the rest of the country — had to take part in long-term distance learning.

Some students struggled, but others thrived. So much so, they want to continue learning online.

Enrollment more than doubled for Duval Virtual Instruction Academy — the district’s full-time online school — compared to the same time frame last year, according to public records.

“We have seen a doubling of applications and also a doubling of actual completed enrollments/registrations as of today compared to last year same date,” the district said in an email.

During the recent distance learning period, Duval County Public Schools touted the virtual K-12 school as an alternative for students who were doing well in the online setting as well as for high-risk families and students.

The virtual academy is different from Duval HomeRoom — the district’s distance learning platform — because the former is a school they’d transfer to, while Duval HomeRoom is a temporary solution in lieu of in-person learning because of the coronavirus.

In notes to teachers, Superintendent Diana Greene recommended that teachers weary of returning to a traditional classroom consider applying to work at the virtual academy.

According to the district, 199 students submitted applications for the virtual school as of June 18. For context, 94 students submitted applications by June 18, 2019.

As for the number of students registered, new students more than doubled from 35 as of June 18, 2019 to 83 students one year later.

The school’s total current enrollment is made up of 212 students, the district said.

This increase mirrors patterns seen across Florida.

In Volusia County, the Daytona Beach News Journal reported an increase by almost four times in its district-operated virtual school, Volusia Online Learning.

While some students are opting for district-run virtual academies, others are enrolling in Florida Virtual School — known as FLVS — for the same benefits, including flexible scheduling.

FLVS is a statewide virtual school that operates as its own school district. In addition to full-time learning, students historically enroll with FLVS when they need additional credits or are opting to take a class over the summer. The 180-day calendar school year is offered to K-12 students and issues a diploma to graduating seniors.

FLVS spokeswoman Tania Clow said FLVS has not seen an increase in enrollments yet, but said she suspects it’s because families are waiting for their school districts to finalize and announce plans for the 2020-21 school year.

“We anticipate enrollments will increase as we approach the start of the next school year if COVID-19 continues to disrupt traditional school operations,” Clow said.

Enrollment for FLVS full-time status closes July 24 while enrollment for FLVS Flex — where students can take supplemental courses — is open year round.

Duval County Public Schools’ school board hosted a workshop meeting Tuesday where Greene presented a plan to reopen Duval Schools next school year. The plan gives students three options — a blended option with in-person classes, to continue full time on Duval HomeRoom or to enroll with Duval Virtual Instruction Academy.

The surge in enrollment happened before these options were announced, but the school district expects it will continue following Greene’s announcement.

It’s unclear if there’s an increased interest in Duval Virtual Instruction Academy for teachers based on public records.

“For the staffing data, applications for Duval Virtual Instruction Academy are only accepted when there are vacancies,” the district said in an email.

According to the district, the school is currently fully staffed with 21 teaching positions and two guidance counselors.

Emily Bloch: (904) 359-4083

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