FRANKLIN, Ind. — No surprise that more parents are enrolling their kids in classes online, whether through the local public school, or an online school.
Indiana Connections Academy has taught students online for a decade. Enrollment inquiries jumped 23 percent this year.
Sophie Taylor starts eighth grade Thursday, but she won't have to leave her front porch in rural Franklin or wear a mask.
"It's kind of cool going to an online school,” said Sophie, “because not a lot of people do it. So, it's nice being like, ‘Yeah, I get to stay home in my PJs all day and just sit there and do schoolwork."
Sophie is one of over a record 6,000 students enrolled at Indiana Connections Academy. Another 350 high schoolers will virtually attend Indiana Connections Career Academy, a sister school geared toward vocational training.
"We're obviously sad about everything that's happening,” said Stephanie Chi, Indiana Connections Career Academy principal. “It's a really hard time for many people. We are here to serve students. We've seen some exponential growth in terms of enrollment."
"I've seen a lot of parents who said they didn't like the fact that they didn't know what was going to happen,” said Stacy Taylor, Sophie’s mother. “If it was going to be, 'Yeah, we're going to go to school right now and then we're going to back it off to a hybrid and then we're going to go virtual.' They wanted the consistency to know, at least for the school year, they're going to be online the whole year."
Aria Remmel is Sophie's science teacher. This is Remmel’s fourth year teaching online after working at brick-and-mortar school previously. She feels safer working from home during the pandemic. Remmel said while most schools shut down and reorganized for e-learning in the spring, Indiana Connections Academy never missed a class.
"I do really believe in our program and I feel that we're providing a really good education for these kiddos,” said Remmel. “So, it's kind of a win-win, that we can feel safe and we can do our learning process uninterrupted."
Jen Goble has three children in school in Decatur. Her ninth-grade daughter is attending the local public high school, in part to remain part of the band program. But for her fifth- and seventh-grade sons, Jen preferred established, proven online curriculum over modified e-learning through her local school system. The father of the family also has an immune disorder.
"We all have to make the decisions that are right for our families, and also just that freedom to know it's OK to make a different decision for each child,” said Jen. “You don't have to choose an all or nothing thing. And this isn't a forever decision. This is what's best for our family right now."
Indiana Connections Academy touts its program as superior and personal, despite being virtual. Families do not pay tuition to the public charter school. Online enrollment is open through September 18.