Charter school enrollment numbers increase during pandemic

Posted at 3:24 PM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 19:20:56-04

IDAHO — As the number of COVID-19 cases among children rises, some parents are choosing to homeschool their children or enroll in a charter school.

As we've reported, the number of cases among children but also the number of child hospitalizations because of COVID-19 continue to rise. Experts said the number of cases is higher in counties where the schools don't have a mask mandate.

One Nampa School district parent decided things needed to change when the school board voted against a mask mandate earlier in September. So, she took her child out of public school and started homeschooling.

Kali Lawhorn homeschooled her three kids last school year because of COVID-19 and her autoimmune disease, which puts her at a higher risk for severe infection.

Her 11-year-old wanted to go back to public school this year so she could see her friends. Kali thought because the number of COVID-19 cases had decreased, it was safe to send her back.

“Once I put her in everything started to take off again and so I was waiting to see how the school was going to handle it and they didn’t so I was like I’ve gotta pull her back out because I feel like things are worse now than they were last year," she said.

Idaho doesn't track how many students are being homeschooled so it's unclear how many other parents have made a similar decision.

There is data, however; on in-person and online charter schools.

Charter school enrollment increased by more than 6,000 students for the 2020/2021 school year--the first academic year fully consumed by the pandemic.

Jenn Thompson, the Director of the Idaho Public Charter School Commission says population growth makes that seem like a big increase, but it's only a roughly 1% increase from the previous academic year.

"About 60% of the growth we saw last year was very specifically parents enrolling in virtual schools and the data we can look at right now is about half of that is holding," Thompson said.