Des Moines Public Schools will continue to offer an online learning option for elementary school students next school year despite a drop in participation.
The Des Moines School Board approved offering the Edgenuity program for the 2022-23 school year for kindergarten through fifth-grade students at a cost of $363,000 Tuesday night. District officials first offered the online elementary school option at the start of the 2021-22 school year amid rising COVID-19 cases. Around the same time, officials expanded Virtual Campus, the district’s online high school, to include middle school students.
Edgenuity, a for-profit education company, provides online curriculum to school districts. The program is student-led, meaning the child sets the pace of lessons, with help from Edgenuity staff members.
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Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts across the country have expanded online learning programs for students in an effort to meet a wide range of needs. Des Moines schools are not alone in continuing to offer an online school option next school year: the Mediapolis and Waukee school districts also plan to offer Edgenuity.
Some districts, including Ames Community School District, will discontinue contracting with the company.
In Des Moines, the program has seen a steady drop in participants since last fall, said Tim Schott, the district’s executive director of teaching and learning. About 445 students were enrolled in fall 2021 and about 220 for the spring 2022 semester, Currently, only 51 students have signed up for next school year.
Several factors are contributing to the loss of students.
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“The pandemic-related concerns were just higher in the fall of 2021 than they are in the fall of 2022 for families,” Schott said. “… I think that Edgenuity works well for some families, but it certainly does not work well for every family.”
School assessment scores reflected how some online elementary students struggled while participating in Edgenuity.
“As a whole group, students participating in Edgenuity scored slightly lower on assessments” compared to students attending school in person, Schott said.
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In an effort to give families more resources in the coming school year, Edgenuity participants will work with the Greenwood Elementary staff, he said. Available assistance will include getting families signed up for any needed services and help them navigate technology and make sure students are connected to the internet
Edgenuity’s staff will continue to handle instruction and curriculum.
Staff writers Brad Vidmar, Phillip Sitter and Sarah Leblanc contributed to this report.