High interest in homeschooling, online school amid COVID-19 pandemic and unclear fall plan

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It's still not clear if schools will be allowed to reopen in time for the new school year. But, even if they do, some students may not be returning.

The Minnesota Homeschoolers Alliance says more parents are showing interest in putting their child's education in their own hands. The same appears to be true for online schools.

Distance learning just wrapped up for many students a couple weeks ago, but already many are thinking about fall.

For many families distance learning just didn't work, and not knowing what fall will bring is unsettling.

"We do anticipate more kids will join us online in the fall," said Melissa Gould, Principal of Minnesota Connections Academy.

Gould said website activity for the K-12 online school is up 50%, and June enrollment is up 20% over last year.

"We have the advantage of we’ve done this for a long time, whereas districts and schools who are trying to learn this, it’s not an easy challenge," Gould said.

They're having to hire more teachers just to keep up with demand.

Interest is also growing in homeschooling.

"We are seeing a huge uptick in all of that right now," said Aza Donnelly, with Minnesota Homeschoolers Alliance.

Donnelly said in the 2018-19 school year, more than 19,000 students were homeschooled. She expects that to grow this fall.

"There are things that our kids really need to learn, they need to learn how to read, they need to learn how to write, how to do math, and there are also things that our kids really want to learn, and that can be anything," Donnelly said, describing some of the benefits of homeschooling.

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) won't have specific enrollment numbers until October but anticipates there will be parents considering other schooling options.

"We did hear all along that there were some families that really did struggle with distance-learning and some students who probably experienced some significant learning loss during that time," Assistant MDE Commissioner Daron Korte said.

Korte encouraged parents to get involved with what districts are planning now, saying it could be very different from what was experienced in the spring.

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