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Enrollment in SVVSD's online academy saw rise in numbers

School officials are concerned that more students will join virtual academy if COVID-19 cases rise.
Photo by Thomas Park on Unsplash

St. Vrain Valley School District’s new online learning academy saw an enrollment surge after the first day students returned to traditional classrooms. The enrollment bump prompted the district to hire more teachers to ease concerns over class sizes at the LaunchED Virtual Academy, administrators told the school board Wednesday night.

LaunchED was created this summer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students with concerns about being taught in brick-and-mortar classrooms could enroll in the academy and get classes and programs aligned with Colorado academic standards, the district stated on its website.

St. Vrain began the school year with all of its students learning online to adhere to state and local guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The district switched to a hybrid approach on Oct. 5, allowing students to return to in-person learning on a rotating basis.

Since Oct. 5, LaunchED enrolled 854 new students to bring its total enrollment to 3,401, Kahle Charles, the district’s special education coordinator for student services, told the school board.

“We are still admitting new students to the program every day,” Charles said, noting the rate of new enrollments has leveled off.

A new surge of COVID-19 cases could drive more students to the program, he said.

“It’s obviously a moving target,” Charles said. “But right now we feel we are really stable.”

The district has hired 17 new teachers to reduce class sizes in the virtual academy, he said. The academy also is carefully easing 50 elementary students into traditional classrooms.

“We want to make sure it doesn’t raise classes and ... contribute to workload problems for teachers,” Charles said.

Superintendent Don Haddad also told school board members that the district’s new COVID-19 dashboard is being refined daily to provide parents with the most up-to-date information about each school’s confirmed cases.

He also said declared quarantines are based on a variety of factors including state and local health guidelines.

“As recently as this past week, we’ve had schools impacted, yet the response has been different,” Haddad said.

He said as many as 240 students at Silver Creek High School were recently quarantined as well as 19 staff members.

“If you are in the quarantine process does not mean you have COVID,” Haddad told board members. “It’s really important we don’t make assumptions based on quarantine.”