February 7, 2023

In a RAND Corporation study, Remote Learning is here to stay, 58 of 288 district administrators – around 20 percent – said their school system has already opened, is planning to, or is considering an online school would be a post-pandemic offer.

“This is hardly a panacea or bullet for public school attendance,” said Heather Schwartz, a senior policy researcher at RAND who led the study. But she added, “There is a minority of parents, a minority of students, and even a minority of teachers for whom the virtual school is the preferred mode.”

However, an increase in online schools carries risks. It could normalize distance learning approaches that have produced poor results for many students, education researchers said. It could also further divide a fragile national education system, especially if many Asian, Black, and Latin American families were careful about sending their children back to school this year.

“I’m afraid this will lead to further ruptures and fragmentation,” said Jack Schneider, assistant professor of education at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

Districts said they were responding only to requests from parents and children who wish to pursue distance learning – some because of student health issues, others because of concerns about bullying or discrimination in their school, and others who simply prefer to To learn at home.

Districts that do not establish online schools could lose students – along with government funding – to virtual academies run by neighboring districts, companies, or nonprofits, the administrators said. To pay for the new online offerings, some districts are using federal funds for Coronavirus Aid or Relocation of resources from other programs.

Online schools opened in the 1990s, some by states or districts and others by private companies or not-for-profit charter management organizations. Until recently, they played a niche role in many states.