Despite the best efforts of Colorado school districts, the abrupt switch to remote learning in March left many students and parents frustrated. The Colorado Coalition of Cyberschool Families said many are now turning to established online schools.
Tillie Elvrum, president of the coalition, said it's not the school district's fault.
“They’re just not designed to deliver full-time online education in a pandemic,” Elvrum said.
Colorado has more than 60 online schools, both independent schools and programs that are run by school districts. Over 22,000 students in Colorado are already enrolled in online school, according to the Colorado Department of Education's latest data.
Elvrum said a lot of families chose online schools because of specific academic programs, but others are concerned about issues like bullying and school safety.
Most online schools offer some version of a virtual classroom, with a teacher conducting lessons for students simultaneously.
“It’s not enough to just digitize curriculum, kids need meaningful instruction that’s designed intentionally for the online model," said Elvrum.
Elvrum said based on surveys, the coalition is expecting as many as 5% of Colorado families to switch from traditional school to online school this year. She said she believes cyberschools could take some of the burden off districts that are trying to plan for both remote and in-person learning.
“We know that our traditional public schools serve as more than just a place of learning — they’re nutrition programs, they’re daycare for many families, and we’re sensitive to that,” said Elvrum.
Metro area districts, including Denver Public Schools, JeffCo Public Schools and Douglas County are also offering fully online learning options this year. Elvrum urged parents to research their options now so they have time to complete the enrollment process.