Week of 4/26: K-5 Virtual Nearing Zero

This week the virtual-only figure took another drop as now 5.6% of all K-12 students are attending virtual-only schools. This week we examine the places where K-5 schools are still virtual, take a look at the developing landscape for virtual learning in the Fall of 2021, and review the shifting landscape of start dates for Fall 2021.

This week the virtual-only figure took another drop as now 5.6% of all K-12 students are attending virtual-only schools. This week we examine the places where K-5 schools are still virtual, take a look at the developing landscape for virtual learning in the Fall of 2021, and review the shifting landscape of start dates for Fall 2021.



% US K-12 students attending "virtual-only" schools = 5.6% (from 9.4% last week)
% US K-12 students attending "traditional" in-person/every day" schools = 65.3% (from 62.4%)
% US K-12 students attending "hybrid" schools = 29.1% (from 28.2%)

The above percentages are set to Sunday, April 25th. Our data is presented as "students attending schools that offer this learning plan" - most districts also offer virtual even when providing in-person. For above, 5.6% of US K-12 students are currently attending schools that offer virtual-only plans, 65.3% offering traditional, etc.


1) Only a handful of districts nationally have K-5 students still virtual-only at this point in the year with only 2.7% (see below) of all K-5 students attending virtual-only districts. With comprehensive reopening plans across the Sun Belt and the Rockies in the Fall, and a series of executive actions to mandate K-5 openings since the New Year in many other states, the K-5 virtual districts remaining are in only a handful of states. Burbio audits districts representing 47% of all US K-12 students. Below is a snapshot of districts committed to being virtual for the year. It is important to note several districts (not included below) have announced plans for K-5 in-person in the next two weeks, and a few others have situations that remain fluid.
  • In California, Fremont Unified is staying virtual for the year, as are San Bernadino and Santa Ana Unified. California also has a number of smaller districts that voted in March to remain virtual for the year and don't appear to be revisiting the decision.
  • Passaic, NJ schools are virtual for the year, as are Pleasantville, NJ schools, while Paterson, NJ remains virtual indefinitely. Separately, in a quick 360 degree turn, Jersey City announced on April 20th they would not bring students in as previously planned, noting only 60% of staff said they would come to work and 65% of students were opting out; shortly thereafter the district reversed course and will bring in K-3 this week.
  • In Michigan, Kalamazoo Public Schools and Lansing schools are virtual for the year. Detroit Public Schools, which had offered in-person earlier this year, remains indefinitely virtual and will reconsider in May.
  • In Illinois, Bellwood School District and Dolton West are virtual, and we see a number of other smaller Illinois districts that are virtual with indefinite plans.
  • Richmond, VA schools are open for only special needs students and remain virtual for the year for the general student population.
2) The virtual learning landscape for the Fall of 2021 is still forming as districts of different sizes begin to make plans. We expect this situation to remain fluid but given the number of approaches we are seeing we wanted to highlight some early observations:
  • At the district level, different variations: San Ramon, CA will have a virtual academy next year, as will Central Dauphin, PA . Richmond, VA's virtual academy will be hosted K-5 at the city level and 6-12 at the state level. Omaha, NE will have a stand-alone "blended learning" program that will have one day a week in school. Las Vegas, NV's virtual option requires principal's approval and "an adult at home" for elementary students. Grant Pass, OR schools virtual program describes a highly customized experience that involves in-person learning. In Jefferson County, KY they are considering a "cutting edge, rigorous, first-option virtual school" for grades K-12.
  • Virtual options - but not for the youngest students: Douglas County, GA will offer virtual only for grades 3-12 and Scranton, PA only for grades 6-12. West Claremont, CA will offer virtual only to grades 4-12. Catawba, NC's virtual option for K-2 will require some in-school attendance. If state laws allow, Frisco ISD, TX will offer virtual to grades 3-12.
  • Districts foregoing offering virtual: Chapel Hill-Carrboro, NC schools do not foresee offering virtual or hybrid instruction next Fall and neither do South Washington, MN schools or Mason City, OH schools. Chapel Hill cites state regulations while South Washington and Mason City report low interest.
  • State level options: Many states offer options to students from all districts. Des Moines, IA is adding middle school students to their offering after only having high school students and is one of several virtual schools in Iowa that will enroll students from across the state. Missouri has a state level option, as does Virginia, referenced in this Fairfax County schools presentation and also Richmond (above).
3) In two interesting data points related to interest in virtual options, in Gwinnett County, GA, the state's largest district, just over 2% of all students have opted for virtual next Fall. Conversely, Barrington, IL reported 25% of parents preferring a virtual option for the Fall of 2021, but the survey was done in February and March and the district is going to re-canvas those parents and ask for a full year commitment to virtual as part of planning.


4) In addition to our School Tracker audit service, Burbio's runs a data service that aggregates over 80,000 K-12 school calendars representing over 90% of US K-12 public schools, The calendars are dynamically updated and pick up signals about all manner of school activities. Below, we identify changes in the first day of school for Fall 2021 versus 2020. Note that over 40% of districts are shifting their start dates by more than 5 days from the Covid-19 disrupted Fall 2020.

5) As noted above, the percent of K-5 students attending virtual-only districts is approaching zero as only a handful of districts have announced intentions to remain completely virtual all year. Some of the shift away from virtual went to hybrid, as many "Always Virtual" areas are returning K-5 in that mode, even as many hybrid districts across the US convert to traditional.

K-5 Students:

2.7% attending virtual-only schools (from 6.2% last week)
25.1% attending schools offering hybrid (from 24%)
72.2% attending schools offering traditional (from 69.8%)

Grades 6-8 Students

7.6% attending virtual-only schools (from 11.3% last week)
30.4% attending schools offering hybrid (from 30.5%)
62% attending schools offering traditional (from 58.2%)

High School Students

8.2% attending virtual-only schools (from 12.6% last week)
34 % attending schools offering hybrid (from 32.8%)
57.8% attending schools offering traditional (from 54.6%)

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