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Parents, kids weigh back to school options as virtual learning gains popularity

12,600 students enrolled in Florida Virtual School in the 2020-2021 school year.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Ty Whitley feels most comfortable learning not in a classroom, but in his bedroom.

 "It's really my own time and things that I am ready to do - things that I can do," he describes his virtual learning workload

The St. Johns County 12-year-old says his parents were keen on his idea to go virtual for the upcoming school year.  His older sister was already doing it. 

"I get to do my work. I get to learn. I get to do the things that I love. I get to do sports, see all my friends.  It's just great for me," he said

His dad Josh believes it gives his kids more flexibility to get their work done without all the peer pressure and bullying.  

"We don't want them to endure that if they don't have to. Because if there is a support system of other kids that are also in virtual and parents who choose to do that, it does make that less of a point when you don't have to put them in an environment to have to deal with that kind of stuff," Whitley told First Coast News. 

The virtual option is gaining popularity.

A spokesperson for Florida Virtual School says enrollment for the 2019-2020 school year was close to 5,800 students.  Last year, that number more than doubled to 12,600 students. More than 9,000 students are currently signed up for this upcoming year and more is expected.

"The conversations that we are having with the other parents we talk to are starting to at least be curious about it," he said.

Florida Virtual School is available statewide allowing children to learn virtually with licensed teachers from across the state. In St. Johns County, parents can opt in to the district's own virtual learning program taught by local teachers.

Whitley says it's the best option for his family.  "You are not really missing out on being a kid, but you are still being able to learn at your pace," he said.


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