Last year at this time, we were starting to hear about the pandemic. Many people were hopeful that after a few months of closing down, we would be able to get back to “normal” and life would go on. Here it is a year later, and we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. One of the institutions that has been affected in a major way is our schools.
Parents have had a choice in how to educate their children for many years in WI, the details of which depend upon where one lives. February 1 started the state-wide open enrollment period, the time when parents can apply for their children to attend a school outside of the district in which they live. The open enrollment period is from February 1 to 4:00 p.m. on April 30, 2021. Open enrollment is one way that parents can determine where and how their children attend school. I recommend carefully reading the DPI website on public school open enrollment to learn about it, download a brochure, get deadlines and requirements, and obtain an application. The website is: https://dpi.wi.gov/open-enrollment
Generally, there are two types of schools in open enrollment: a regular public school, or virtual charter schools operated through public schools. During the pandemic, much has been said about virtual learning. One of the problems of virtual learning during the pandemic is that most public schools were unprepared to implement virtual learning full-time. Issues of reliable Internet and device hardware access were magnified. Both teachers and students did not know how to do virtual teaching and learning effectively. Teachers were not trained to provide instruction online, students were not taught how to learn online, and families were not oriented to the features of virtual learning. In a virtual school -- where online learning is done well and teachers, students, and families are taught how to do it successfully-- students can thrive and succeed in ways they never did in a face-to-face classroom. This is especially true of gifted students in the right virtual school, where they are empowered to learn at their own depth, breadth, and rate, with good teachers who know how to teach gifted learners.
Check out the DPI website about virtual charter schools to learn more if you are considering open enrollment in a virtual school:
The website has a list of virtual charter schools that operated during the 2020-2021 academic year, and is a useful guide for applying to a virtual school via open enrollment. As with any open enrollment, it is worth considering the year the virtual school opened, attending their information sessions, and talking with teachers and parents of currently enrolled students. Virtual schools that do it well do not have students spending hours a day at the computer. Learning is done in a variety of ways, including face-to-face interaction with field trips, and other events. It is important to note that enrolling in a virtual charter school is different from homeschooling. Virtual charter schools have licensed teachers who direct the education of the students, whereas when homeschooling, the parent is solely responsible for the curriculum and all other aspects of education for the student.
The reasons for choosing open enrollment are many, and it is a very individualized decision for each family; however, it can be a good solution for students who need a different school to better meet their needs. Each February I write a blog post about open enrollment with tips, and other information. For previous blog posts, please see the archives in the blog post menu, “Ask the Doctor.”
Ask the Doctor