DALLAS — Texas parents who wish to keep their children learning at home do have other options - there are a few tuition-free public schools that have always instructed virtually for students in third through 12th grade.
School districts across the state are scrambling as pediatric cases and hospitalizations connected to COVID-19 rise, and as districts have been blocked from requiring face masks. Some districts have also announced their own virtual learning options.
Texas has "always had a great interest in virtual learning," but interest has been even higher over the past week with the face mask mandates and court rulings, explained Head of School Catherine Groven at Texas Virtual Academy at Hallsville.
Students who live anywhere in Texas, who are eligible to attend public school in Texas, and who meet other eligibility requirements may enroll in these full-time courses in the Texas Virtual School Network.
The Texas Education Agency lists these schools as TEA-credited, full-time Texas Virtual School Network for the upcoming school year:
- iUniversity Prep - Grapevine-Colleyville ISD
- Texas Virtual Academy at Hallsville - Hallsville ISD
- Texas Connections Academy - Houston ISD
- Texas Online Preparatory School - Huntsville ISD
- School Prep - Texarkana ISD
- Premier High School Online
- iSchool Virtual Academy of Texas
These schools meet the state curriculum standards, and teachers are Texas-certified in their content areas. Go here to learn more about these schools from the TEA.
"These free, online public schools offer 100% virtual instructional programs to students across the state who are not physically present on campus," the TEA says. "Students who enroll in one of the TXVSN online schools are public school students."
K12 is partnered with the Texas Virtual Academy at Hallsville and Texas Online Preparatory School. There are also some career prep options.
K12, a national online learning platform, is structured similar to what a student would experience in a traditional classroom - but online. There are sequential days for the learning material. Some common items, such as printer ink and paper are not provided.
There has been a higher demand for K12 since the pandemic started. In the last year, K12 went from 123,000 students to approximately 189,000 nationwide.
At Hallsville, there has been an exponential increase in enrollment by the thousands, Groven said. At the Texas Virtual Academy at Hallsville, the enrollment limit is 12,500 and Groven says they will definitely reach that this year.
“It speaks to the need to expand that option to the families of Texas,” Groven said.
Enrollment is currently open, and it will have school start dates through September.
She said instruction and learning at Hallsville were not interrupted by the pandemic. The K12 program has over 20 years of experience in virtual learning, so online instruction and curriculum were already solid when the pandemic and stay-at-home orders began in 2020.
“One of the most incredible things that we saw with our students is, they continue to grow and flourish academically,” Groven said.
Students have learning coaches, which is often a parent. Some families do co-ops where groups of families live in the same area and learn together.