Private online school sees huge increase in interest for fall

Posted at 5:32 PM, Jul 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 19:19:06-04

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — For many, it’s a whole new way of learning but one Maryland school has been virtually teaching kids of nearly 20 years.

"It's the idea that it’s really well organized, that the teachers have been specially-trained to teach online," said Mickey Revenaugh, co-founder of Connections Academy full-time online schools. "All the curriculum is online already so the students are not downloading Google docs but are instead logging on and interacting with their with their math curriculum or their language arts curriculum online."

Connections Academy, part of Pearson Online Academy, is headquartered in Maryland and provides full-time online school nationwide... from STEM to virtual PE and visual arts.

"They do gallery walks. They do talent shows. In zoom calls like this one, they’re doing show and tell of what they are dong and sharing their work with other students," said Revenaugh.

Revenaugh said since May, they’ve had record high demand, almost a 200 percent increase in interest from Maryland parents, and they’ve had to staff up in almost every state.

"Many families are saying. 'If I’m going to be going to school online anyway, let me choose a school that was created to be online from scratch'," said Revenaugh.

They are also helping school districts adapt online.

"We’re providing advice and consulting about teacher training, what teachers need to know to be able to do this well. School districts are in some cases purchasing curriculum from us or others that they’ll then turn around and offer as part of what they make available to families this fall," said Revenaugh.

For many families this fall, virtual is not a choice, but Revenaugh said families have chosen to go virtual long before the pandemic because of the increased parental oversight and one-on-one teacher experience that it offers.

"In virtual school, you actually see what they are doing, you can look at their data, you have access to their grade book. You know everything that’s going on with them and that level of visibility makes parents feel like they have some say in what’s happening with their students and that’s huge... They [students] really have a one-on-one relationship with their teacher who is monitoring their data about how well they’re doing on literally every single thing they do," said Revenaugh. "It’s not for everybody necessarily. Not all students enjoy that one-on-one attention and ability to move at their own pace but for a lot of students that’s the missing piece in their regular schooling."

Most of the schools nationwide they help operate virtually are public, but in Maryland, state law doesn’t allow for virtual public school so they have to charge tuition for the private online education.

"In states next door like Pennsylvania or Ohio, students can go to these schools like any other public school and there’s no tuition," said Revenaugh.

She hopes if anything, this pandemic will show the need for a virtual public option and push lawmakers to consider allowing it be offered for free.

"There’s a groundswell of interest among families and there’s starting to be a lot more thoughtful action among school district leaders to have something they can offer to students if they have shut schools again," Revenaugh.

You can enroll for a semester, a full year, or by the course.

Pearson is also working with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference chapter in Prince Georges County to offer 50 scholarships recognizing young, black, social justice advocates from across the country who would benefit from a full time online education.

Learn more and apply here.