Pamplin Media Group – Reynolds mulls a permanent online school

Remote learning would be an option for students who want it after schools reopen

The Reynolds School Board gave the district a green light to investigate an online school to meet the needs of students who don’t want to come back to school buildings after schools open.

Statewide, an array of online schools have become popular over the last few years, with their enrollment surging as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reynolds administrators said the district lost 346 students this year to online schools.

That cost Reynolds roughly $3.2 million, since state funding follows students to the schools they attend.

Although the remote learning mandated by the COVID-19 pandemic has been condemned by many families, online school has become attractive to some families over the past few years.

It allows more flexibility in a student’s schedule, so for example, older students can work. Some students who have been bullied, have social anxiety or medical conditions also find online school works for them.

Reynolds board members wanted to make sure that administrators would try to determine the demand for the school as part of their investigation into the possible online school.

Valerie Tewksbury, chair of the Reynolds board said “I think we’re going to find that for some students and families, this is a good option for them.”

The Centennial School District will continue to offer its online school option for the 2021-22 school year.

The district launched the Centennial Virtual Academy a year ago, when the pandemic closed school buildings. Centennial too saw some of its students leaving to join online schools.

Centennial’s virtual academy was started as a one-year temporary program, but with enrollment at almost 400 students, the district decided it was a good option for some students “who do not want to attend a brick and mortar school.”

Students wanting an online education can also attend Metro East Web Academy, sponsored by the Gresham-Barlow School District. Metro East has 518 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Reynolds is considering locating the potential online school at its Edgefield Campus, 2408 S.W. Halsey St.

The renovation of a building there would cost about $549,000, administrators told the school board.

Most online schools have a physical location where local students can visit for extra help, counseling, club meetings or to use specialized equipment.

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