LIVONIA, Mich. (WXYZ) — In tonight's 2 Americas we're examining the changing face of traditional public education and how the pandemic is redefining what school looks like for our children.
Whether it's a charter school, virtual, homeschooling, or private schooling, there are now more alternative options in the state than ever before, serving families who say they no longer believe in a one size fits all system.
“When COVID hit, it just did not go well at all,” said mom Erica Price.
Livonia mom Erica Price has a bit of PTSD from the early days of the pandemic- full-time work while tending to two daughters, struggling to acclimate to online school.
“They were frustrated, I was frustrated, my husband was frustrated,” said Price.
By the fall of 2020, Erica felt like she had no other choice than to put her kids in a private school. It wasn’t a world she knew much about, but it quickly shattered her low expectations.
“She would come home, and we would be in the car less than five minutes, and she says, ‘hey mom this is what I learned at school today, this is what so and so said, and this is what happened,” said Price.
WXYZ’s Ameera David asked, “So you noticed she was more engaged?”
“Oh absolutely!” said Price.
Erica’s family was one of the thousands who made the choice to leave traditional public schools and not to return.
“It was almost if it’s not broken don’t fix it,” explained Price.
“Enrollment in Michigan's Public Schools rebounded slightly in the last school year, but city districts continue to lose students – statewide, enrollment down 3.7%, families still leaning on alternatives to the mainstream.
“Is it fair to say there are more options on the market when it comes to schooling?” asked David.
Many of which are supporting families.. even saying no to the brick-and-mortar traditional schooling.
“I have three kiddos, all do virtual school,” said mom Katie Woodhams.
That wasn’t always the plan for Michigan mom Katie Woodhams, who moved her three kids into their neighborhood specifically for the nearby school.
“There are amazing teachers there, this is where we envisioned schooling them,” said Woodhams.
But after finding her son, with high functioning autism, wasn’t getting his needs met, she moved her kids to a virtual charter instead.
Online schooling programs are seeing a huge uptick according to national researchers and the proof is in the numbers, that means, in two years, online options in the state have more than tripled.
The cyber-ed world is still not meeting demand. Michigan Connections Academy, where Katie's three kids are enrolled – says last fall’s waitlist was up more than 40% from pre-pandemic times.
“Why do you think so many families have decided not to return to the traditional public-school setting?” asked David.
“There were people who were forced to take that leap of faith and found they really liked it,” said Shelby Doyle from National School Choice Awareness
“You have to wonder - How could this change the face of traditional public schooling forever?” asked David.
“The whole ecosystem within which schooling choices are being made is different than it was before, we haven’t fully gone back to normal, and we probably never will,” said Doyle.
“I went to public school, my husband did too, but it’s not the same fit for everyone,” said Price.
If you’re interested in exploring the expanding educational options out there, The National School Choice Awareness Foundation is tracking that information.