Virtual school remains popular in Hillsborough County

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Many students are expected to return to brick-and-mortar schools for the 2021-22 school year. However, the number of computer-based students will likely remain well above pre-pandemic levels.

What do you want to know

  • Hillsborough County Schools estimates around 3,500 students are participating in the virtual school program
  • Before the pandemic, the system typically had 350 students enrolled in its virtual school program
  • The program supervisor said it was not the best option for everyone, however
  • More education titles

Sofia Muniz, 9, experienced virtual learning for the first time last year.

Muniz said she sometimes struggled to concentrate in class, but working online gave her options.

“Basically, if I struggled with math and want to take a break, I can easily switch to reading,” she said.

Muniz’s grades have risen as the new school year begins, her parents have decided she remains enrolled in Hillsborough Virtual K-12.

“It eliminated distractions for her. It eliminated time when she was unmotivated,” said Alicia Muniz, her mother.

The number of registrations shows that there is still a lot of interest in virtual learning.

Before the pandemic, Hillsborough County Public Schools typically had 350 students enrolled in its virtual school program.

This number increased to approximately 7,000 students in the 2020-21 school year and the district estimates that it will stabilize at approximately 3,500 students for the 2021-22 school year.

Hillsborough Virtual K-12 supervisor Deenee Upshaw said families sign up for a number of different reasons.

“It’s a good place for independent learners, for students who want to take ownership of their learning,” she said.

But Upshaw warns it’s not the best choice for everyone.

“We recognized that a lot last year where it was ‘I did it just because’ and it’s just not the best way to go,” she said.

Upshaw said its staff is ready for the new school year.

“We’re ready to go. We’re ready to welcome our virtual students back,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sofia and her mother said they were busy getting ready for the first day of school, as they would if Sofia attended in person.

“It’s something that’s always fun. It’s always exciting. It’s still new and that’s the most important thing. Just like in brick and mortar, we’re excited to make those connections.

She said they have no plans to “log out” of virtual school anytime soon.

Perry A. Thomasson