Providence parents fight for access to virtual learning after enrollment deadline

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – The Providence Public School District is considering expanding its virtual learning academy after a recent spike in inquiries from parents looking to enroll their children.

Parents were originally asked to decide whether or not they wanted to enroll their child in virtual learning by August 19th. But many parents missed the deadline.

Some parents missed the enrollment period because they did not know there was a deadline.

“There was no letter sent home to parents. Nothing where they had concrete knowledge of what their choices were,” said Melissa Babcock, a teacher in the Providence Public School District.

She said not all families had access to the emails or automated texts that were sent out to alert them of the enrollment deadline.

“One of the big problems stated for distance learning was that it wasn’t equitable across all platforms due to lack of internet and hotspots that were not working. Yet they chose to push [the enrollment] out through Facebook, Twitter, their website,” said Babcock.

Other families missed the deadline intentionally to wait and find out how the governor would decide to reopen the district.

“I just think it’s a little crazy for parents to be fully committed to something before we’re even told what’s going on,” said Angela Humphrey, whose daughter is going into fourth grade.

Due to the spike in the number of parents requesting their child be enrolled in the Providence Virtual Learning Academy (PVLA), the district is issuing an interest survey to all parents not currently enrolled in the 100% remote learning program. Based on the results of this survey, the district will investigate options for expanding its PVLA enrollment, currently topped at 6,500 students.

The interest survey is not the same as a waitlist nor does it finalize enrollment in the program.

Families should know that students with pre-existing, documented medical conditions will be prioritized for placement.

The survey will be available on both the reopenpvdschools.org and providenceschools.org websites. It will also be posted on the Skyward family portal. Families already enrolled in the Virtual Learning Academy should not fill out this survey.

A spokesperson for the district said their goal is to accommodate everyone who wants distance learning, but that will depend on the number of teachers available, and will not likely happen by the start of the school year, but rather later on in the Fall.

Babcock said the district should have enough teachers since it recently filled a majority of its teacher vacancies.

She also said the district is obligated to offer distance learning to those who request it.

“The governor has said repeatedly no parent has to send their child to school,” said Babcock.

According to the district, students not currently enrolled in the virtual program should continue to follow their previously assigned school schedule on Sept. 14.

“If we don’t get a continued distance learning option, I’m going to have to pull [my daughter] out and home school her,” said Humphrey.

For questions about the Virtual Learning Academy, families may email PVLA@ppsd.org. For questions about the Skyward family portal, families may email skyward@ppsd.org.

Categories: Back to School, Coronavirus, News, Our Schools, Regional News, Rhode Island