Wake County School System to End Virtual Academy Program

The Wake County School System is ending the Virtual Academy program which was created to provide additional options for families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The school district thmailed to Wake families on Tuesday that the Virtual Academy will close at the end of the 2021-22 school year. Students will attend their assigned schools in person beginning in the 2022-23 school year.

Wake created the program in 2020 to comply with a now-expired COVID-19 requirement to provide online options for students who are not comfortable with attending schools in person. At its peak, more than 80,000 students – the majority of the district – attended the virtual academy last year.

But enrollment at the Virtual Academy has fallen to 10,000 students this school year.

As her mother Juliette comes into her own, Harper Grimmett attends her day of classes as a sixth-grade student at Ligon Middle School while at their home in Raleigh, North Carolina on Monday, August 17, 2020 They enrolled in Wake County Virtual Academy in the 2020-21 school year. Ethan Hyman [email protected]

Wake ran the academy as a program within individual schools. But Wake says that’s no longer possible because a state law passed in August requires any virtual program to be operated as a separate school beyond June 30, 2022.

“Opening the Academy as a separate school would require students to leave the school they are currently enrolled in,” Wake explained.

Wake leaves open the possibility of bringing back a virtual program in a new format.

“The Virtual Academy was designed and implemented as an emergency response to the pandemic,” Wake said. “We will now begin to explore what the future of an effective and sustainable virtual programming model might look like, but implementation would not begin until the 2023-24 school year.”

This story was originally published March 1, 2022 7:35 p.m.

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T. Keung Hui has been covering K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. Its primary focus is Wake County, but it also covers statewide education issues.