LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Even though school has already started, a growing number of Arkansas parents are looking into virtual learning for their children during this COVID-19 surge.
Over the summer, many districts decided not to offer virtual learning as COVID-19 numbers declined.
But on Thursday, the Board of Education cleared many charter schools and districts to add seats to their virtual learning platforms.
"Due to COVID, our numbers have tripled,” Leslie Ireland, administrator for Pulaski County Special School District’s (PCSSD) Driven Virtual Academy, said.
There were 170 students enrolled at the Driven Virtual Academy when the year started.
The Department of Education approved them to add 500 seats, but just within the past few weeks more than 800 students are seeking virtual learning.
"We had to go back to seek additional seats. Just recently we were approved for an additional 300 or 350 seats,” Ireland said.
Even after filling those additional seats, there's still several PCSSD students on a wait list hoping to learn from home.
"We are now facing challenges to get staff, teaching staff to teach those students,” Ireland said.
PCSSD can't continue to increase the number of seats until they have enough teachers.
They are reaching out to colleges and universities seeking qualified teachers, and the district posted job listings on the school's website.
"Right now, our number one priority is to make sure we get qualified teachers to fill those vacancies to teach the current students that we have,” Ireland said.
The Department of Education plans to give similar approvals to more schools in the coming weeks.
Each district has until September 1st to submit formal changes.