Lakota’s number of virtual learning students drop dramatically; program to change

Once a learning lifeline during the frantic, early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote learning at Lakota Schools continues to be rolled back as demand from school families fades.

The pandemic’s onset in March 2020 saw all Ohio’s public and private schools shuttered for the rest of that school year.

Lakota and other area districts were forced to scramble to put together remote, home learning programs on a scale they had never before attempted.

The 17,000-student Lakota system was among the region’s leaders in cobbling together what district officials dubbed their VLO (Virtual Learning Option) in time for the 2020-2021 school year and at its enrollment height, more than 4,000 students were using the learning system.

But as the pandemic has faded for many in the 2021-2022 school year, so too has the number of school families opting to keep their children home rather than in live classes.

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VLO enrollment this school year was down to 350 students and district officials said the decline for next school continues with more than 100 school families opting to sign up their children by last month’s application deadline.

So Lakota officials said recently they are adjusting accordingly by limiting for the first time the grades that can participate in VLO for 2022-2023 school year.

“With more and more students returning to in-person learning, especially in grades K-8, we have made the decision to offer VLO to students in grades 9-12 only for the 2022-2023 school year,” said Krista Heidenreich, director of digital and professional learning.

“I am proud of our teachers who have taken personalized learning to a whole new level through VLO. Our students who are returning to in-person learning will continue to receive personalized instruction, as this is a focus throughout Lakota,” Heidenreich said in a released statement.

Learning remotely from home often requires the help of school parents, she said, expressing the district’s gratitude for the greater involvement of parents and guardians during the last two years of the pandemic.

“Thank you to our parents who have stepped up to be learning partners over the past two years.”

And in response to a new state requirement, the remaining 9-12 students in VLO next school year will see their remote learning program combined into a new Lakota Central office, said Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Keith Koehne.

“The move comes as changes at the state level require blended and online programs to be independent schools within a district. Although the overall name of the program will change, the student experience will remain the same. Students enrolled in Lakota Central will still be able to participate in activities at our high schools,” said Koehne. “Prom, graduation, athletics and clubs at East or West are still options for our Lakota Central students.”

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