Educators say school choice process is looking much different amid COVID-19 pandemic

WEST OCEAN CITY, Md. – Each year parents have the choice of where to send their children to school. But this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the process of investigating those options is looking a little different. “As families look at these options, they can’t necessarily go about the process of looking for a school in the same way because you usually would go on school tours and visits,” said President of National School Choice Week Andrew Campanella.

At Seaside Christian Academy in West Ocean City, usually that process starts with getting to know parents and prospective students in person. But now, Principal Julie DuChene says that process isn’t the same. “We invite the families to come in for a tour either by themselves – just parents – or with their child. Obviously not with COVID. That is a little bit different for us,” said DuChene.

That’s not the only thing that changed. DuChene says parents’ attitudes toward looking at different school options seems to have opened up. In fact, the principal says their enrollment numbers doubled between July and September of 2020. “A lot of our parents came to us over the summer saying ‘We thought about this for a while, and now with everything that’s going on we’re really ready to make this choice now – this jump,'” said DuChene.

Experts on school choice say this trend isn’t just happening in Maryland, but across the country. That’s something that Campanella says could be a result of the difficulties that have come with learning amid COVID-19. “Families are struggling with emergency remote learning and figuring that all out. It has been a challenge for kids, for moms, for dads, but also for teachers,” said Campanella.

Duchene says she thinks private schools are becoming a more attractive option for parents, as the debate rages on over how and when to open schools during the pandemic. “Private schools – generally because we’re smaller – we’re more nimble and able to adjust and get opened much sooner than a large public school district,” said DuChene.

Campanella says parents who are considering making a change in where their child goes to school should act sooner than later. “If families start the process now of looking for schools for the next school year, they will find that they have more options. If you wait until summer break, lots of seats in schools will be filled up,” said Campanella.

Maryland falls about in the middle of the pack when it comes to school options offered by states across the country, according to Campanella. He says while Maryland does not offer online primary education or sending children to districts they don’t live in, there are plenty of options for public, private, and home school education. “Being able to find a school that is a good fit for your child can make all of the difference. It can help your child to be better prepared for life,” said Campanella.

National School Choice Week begins on January 24th and ends on January 30th

Categories: Coronavirus, Education, Local News, Maryland