Waiting lists exploding at MA virtual schools

WALPOLE, Mass. — Virtual schools in Massachusetts are seeing a surge in enrollment inquiries just weeks before students head back to the classroom.

In the Commonwealth, there are two virtual school options for students: TEC Connections Academy Commonwealth Virtual School (TECCA), and The Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School (GCVS).

Both schools offer online classes for students, grades K-12.

According to Patrick Lattuca, Superintendent of TECCA, many families are questioning whether or not to send their children back into a brick-and-mortar setting.

“We’re getting a lot of parents reaching out to me, and the school directly, asking and pleading for us to allow them in,” he said Monday.

Lattuca told Boston 25 News that enrollment is full at 2,300 students.

By the first day of school on September 1, he expects to have roughly 1,500 students on their waiting list.

“We’re getting pleas from people. Please allow us to enroll in your school because maybe a child being medically fragile,” he explained.

The same is true at GCVS, according to Michelle Morrissey, the school’s Enrollment and Recruitment Specialist.

“Families who are particularly concerned about the wellbeing of children going back to local schools, we do have a very large waitlist at this point.”

Morrissey added that the school has more than a thousand students on their waitlist for enrollment.

“We hear a lot about that they’re concerned about their own student’s health, family’s health, high-risk families, so families are feeling nervous and unsettled and they’d rather have their name on a waitlist as a possibility,” she said.

Both virtual schools have been teaching students online for years.

When it comes to teachers learning how to transition their lessons online, Chintan Patel, a 7th-grade History teacher at TECCA recommends instructors keep their routines in place.

“The more stability there is in a classroom setting, from a structure standpoint, the easier it’s going to be on a teacher, the families, and the students,” he said.

Sarah Jordan, a Director of Accountability and Student Services at GCVS, recommends teachers consider a flipped model and push to get resources into the hands of students first, and then bring them online to practice.

“Don’t have an hour-long class,” she said. “Have a much shorter class in which you really practice engagement and the discourse between students, and you’re doing an activity in which students practice what they’ve been studying.”

Jordan added that she would like to see Massachusetts relax pressure on testing, so families can put their health at the forefront.

“If we slow down and if we say that the MCAS isn’t the be-all and end-all, and people’s safety is very important, and tell people just to breathe, we will get through this.”

Administrators at both virtual schools said they were optimistic that teachers in brick-and-mortar settings would catch on to online learning.

“Virtual learning can happen. We’ve been doing it successfully for 6 years, so the infrastructure and the model is in place,” said Lattuca.

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