SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — From in-person instruction to distance learning, and now hybrid classes in some cases, most school districts have been through a lot during this pandemic.
Many parents have decided to turn to charter schools, which have excelled in distance learning for years.
A spokesperson for the California Charter Schools Association said they’ve heard from non-classroom based charters in San Diego County that are seeing substantial enrollment requests this academic year.
Some of the charter schools have taken on many new students, while others had to stop enrollment due to the lack of state funding.
“In the beginning, a lot of big districts were not providing any resources, the kids were just off,” said Kathleen Hermsmeyer, the superintended of Springs Charter Schools.
Springs Charter Schools has locations across Southern California, including in Vista and Chula Vista in San Diego County.
“We’ve been in business doing this type of distance learning education for 20 years, so for us, this was not a big transition,” she said in regards to education during the pandemic.
“We already had all of our technology, our learning management system, our systems down for distance learning, so it wasn’t a big transition.”
Hermsmeyer said the students new missed a day of class during the pandemic, and early on, Springs Charter Schools enrolled an additional 130 students in San Diego before they knew they wouldn’t be receiving extra state funding.
“The school year starts for us July 1, we didn’t find out until June 28 that we were not going to get funded for those students,” she explained. “They did say we can disenroll the kids, but we’re not going to do that, that’s not kind, that’s not a service to the community.”
Right now, she said about 7,000 students remain on the Springs Charter Schools waitlist across California, with nearly 1,000 in San Diego County. Hermsmeyer said that’s about four times more than last school year.
“We can’t accept the students because there has been a cap on growth for non-classroom based charters like ours,” she said.
“Parents were clamoring to get into our schools, and we couldn’t enroll them, so we wanted to provide something because parents were crying on the phone, it was a really hard crazy time, and parents wanted to keep their children moving academically.”
Springs Valley Schools then launched “Open Classroom,” an online website providing free lessons for students K through 12 at home.
“We had thousands of people all across the whole world using our free classroom,” she said.
Springs Charter Schools received an award from the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools for going above and beyond during the pandemic.
Hermsmeyer said Springs Charter Schools, along with a few other charters, are in a legal battle with the state over the lack of funding to enroll new students.
Springs Charter Schools expects to start bringing back some students for in-person learning by the end of the month, with a full distance learning option still available.
The California Department of Education is tracking statewide enrollment numbers for charter schools and traditional schools and will release the numbers for the 2020-21 academic year in March.