Virtual learning schools seeing increased enrollment in Alabama

Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 7:01 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - As students across the state head back to classes this week with COVID-19 precautions and new school safety plans in place, a number of students will log on to their computers for their first day of classes, this time by choice.

“My opinion, it still works the same,” said Brittany Lee, an online teacher.

Lee taught in a traditional classroom for eight years before she switched to an online school in 2020. She says the experience is entirely different than a simple lesson via Zoom.

“It may not be something they think that they can complete on their own, at the house versus where we’ve been practicing this. We’ve been working on this every single day through our online methods,” she said.

And those online methods are expanding. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2013, Alabama had one virtual learning program. Now state offices report there are 15.

Jaylin Wilson is an online student. She attends Alabama Connections Academy.

“I was in anime club and baking club for a while,” said Wilson.

All online, and with students from across the state. When her school opened in 2017 there were around 1,200 students. This year they expect 7,000.

“I’m able to take three college courses at Calhoun, that’s where I’m studying right now, per semester. And I’ve been doing that since my 10th grade year,” said Wilson.

At just 16 years old she’ll graduate with her high school diploma and an associate degree in chemistry. The classes she took to earn both were free, as the virtual learning schools receive money from their local affiliate districts.

“I think online school really focuses on responsibility, which is a lot of what you’re going to have to do in college is to be responsible for yourself and be a diligent worker,” said Wilson.

Wilson plans to attend the University of Alabama after she graduates, and she did have a laptop before attending her school. But according to new KIDS COUNT data, only 80% of students have internet access and a device at home. Some schools do provide kids with the items needed to learn at home.

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