Online schools are here to stay, even after the pandemic

Demand for virtual schools has soared. Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, one of the nation’s largest school systems, plans to enroll about 1,000 students in its new online school this fall. The Anchorage School District expects about 2,000 children to attend its year-old online school beginning in August. And in Minnesota, the number of state-approved online schools is on track to double this year to 80 or more, from 37 before the pandemic. In a study by the RAND Corporation, “Remote Learning Is Here to Stay,” 58 out of 288 district administrators — roughly 20 percent — said their school system had already started an online school, was planning to start one or was considering doing so as a postpandemic offering... Districts said they were simply responding to demand from parents and children who want to stick with remote learning — some because of student health issues, some because of concerns about bullying or discrimination in their school, and some who just prefer the convenience of learning at home. Districts that fail to start online schools could lose students — along with government education funding — to virtual academies run by neighboring districts, companies or nonprofits, administrators said. To pay for the new online offerings, some districts said, they are using federal coronavirus relief funds or shifting resources from other programs.