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Duval Students Opting For Virtual Swells To 3K After Brief Enrollment Period

Duval County Public Schools headquarters
CYD HOSKINSON / WJCT NEWS
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Duval County Public Schools headquarters

At least 3,586 students have opted for virtual learning this school year, according to a Duval County Public Schools (DCPC) spokesperson. This number is expected to continue climbing as the district processes applications from a brief open enrollment period last week. More than 1,400 students enrolled in Duval Virtual Instruction Academy (DVIA) before the school year started August 10.

The district opened enrollment for two days as COVID cases climbed in Duval County and across the state last week. More than 800 coronavirus cases have been reported so far this school year, according to district data. There have been more than a quarter as many cases in the first two weeks of the school as there were during the entire 2020 - 2021 school year. Almost half of these cases are among elementary school students.

Parents who applied for virtual learning during last week’s open enrollment period can expect a confirmation email this week and orientation email by next week, according to the district. However, some parents who applied for DVIA before the school year started say they had to wait far longer for the necessary paperwork.

Parent Joy Hickens said she applied for the virtual school in July, but didn’t receive computers or login information until this week. “It’s aggravating, they’ve had all summer to prepare and plan,” Hickens said.

The school district said it is working on increasing its virtual staff in the coming weeks, but that students who applied last week should continue attending their brick and mortar school until receiving an orientation email to DVIA.

Even with her kids' long wait to start virtual classes, Hickens said the option felt safer than in person.

“I’m home all day and I don’t really want to risk my children being put out into a school with all of this.” Hickens said. “I would be devastated if they came home sick knowing that they were able to be home with me this entire time.”

Parents can only switch their kids from brick and mortar schools to DVIA during open enrollment periods like the one last week.  DCPS Superintendent Diana Greene said enrollment likely won’t reopen this semester because funding relies on students completing a full semester of coursework.

“If we were to keep it open, for many of our secondary students, they would not have enough time to complete the course,”  Greene told School Board members Monday. “Therefore the school district would not be paid for those courses that they are offering.”

While virtual enrollment is closed, some in-person students could still end up learning from home part of this semester. Starting Wednesday, Aug. 25, if there are two or more cases in a class within one week, the whole class will transition to virtual learning on Microsoft Teams, according to a district announcement last week. Also starting Wednesday, families will receive a letter informing them if there was a known COVID case in their child’s classroom.

Additionally, in a move during an 8-hour emergency school board session Monday, Duval County Schools passed a mask mandate to take effect in classrooms September 7.

The latest enrollment update brings the total to about 3% of DCPS students in fully-virtual classrooms this semester, about a tenth of the number of students who opted for fully virtual learning last fall.

WJCT News’ Sydney Boles contributed to this report.

Contact Claire Heddles at cheddles@wjct.org, or on Twitter at @claireheddles.