At Florida Virtual School, DeVos praises online classes but says in-person best

Leslie Postal, Orlando Sentinel
·2 min read

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited the Florida Virtual School’s Orlando headquarters Monday, praising the state’s online school as a “model for the nation” but also saying education is “best done in person for most kids.”

The virtual school, in operation for more than 20 years, has become more popular this year as the coronavirus pandemic made more parents consider options outside Florida’s “brick and mortar” schools.

DeVos took part in a discussion about the school with Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and FLVS teachers, students and school leaders, some joining her in person and others taking part via Zoom.

“Keep Florida a model for the nation to emulate," DeVos said as the meeting wrapped up.

The statewide school offers free online classes to Florida students, who can study full-time with FLVS or take individual classes.

An official with the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development was on the Zoom call, too, because when the pandemic shuttered schools, Alaska paid FLVS to provide online classes, teacher training and curriculum.

“We’re still leaning on the Florida virtual folks,” said Tamara Van Wyhe, a director at the Alaska department.

DeVos and Corcoran praised the virtual school for offering a quality virtual option that was appealing to families.

The school’s full-time enrollment has nearly doubled since last year, its part-time enrollment has shot up by more than 60% and its teaching corps has expanded with more than 500 new hires, officials said.

But, in answering reporters questions after the discussion, both said that in-person classes were best for most students, and they wanted campuses open so parents could chose a traditional education for their children.

Students need a quality education, despite the challenges of the pandemic, DeVos said.

“We know that’s best done in person for most kids," she added.

Corcoran pushed the state’s schools to open campuses in August but allowed them to offer online options for the fall semester. He said he was working with the state’s superintendents to come up options for the spring semester, too.

“We want parents to have choice,” he said.

But he also said the “great environment” on campus was often what most students needed, and that, in the past two months, Florida’s public schools have proven they were a “safe place” for students.

lpostal@orlandosentinel.com

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