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Some Catholic schools will be permanently “virtual”


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John Burger - published on 06/12/21

For many, the pandemic was an introduction to online education. Now, a Catholic educational organization is offering it as an alternative to in-person learning.

It might not be for everyone, but some Catholic dioceses are getting ready to offer permanent online education for grammar school kids.

While schools of all kinds struggled to keep up instruction in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic this past year and a half, whether with computer technologies or modified classroom structures and schedules, a company providing permanent online instruction has been piquing the interest of more church groups. A dozen Catholic dioceses are starting new programs in which students can keep learning in online-only settings.

The Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, is one of about a dozen dioceses partnering with Catholic Virtual, an accredited, for-profit organization that started 10 years ago to help expand and enrich Catholic school curriculum. The Diocese of Raleigh Virtual School will have classes taught by Catholic teachers from across the country.

Two of the new students at the school this fall will be Vanessa Fields, 14, and her 10-year-old brother, Alex, 10. Their father, Kevin Fields, likes the flexibility of online learning, which allows him to better coordinate additional home tutoring for his children.

“The final decision to keep them remote is that we can supplement their education with tutoring and give them a more flexible schedule to get the help they need,” Fields told Religion News Service.

Robert Birdsell, president of Catholic Virtual, told RNS: “The pandemic has accelerated the acceptance and embrace of online learning. It’s not right for everyone. But I believe choice is the best outcome and parents should be able to choose.”

Birdsell said Catholic Virtual doesn’t want to compete with brick and mortar schools, so it is partnering with dioceses instead, RNS said. At $6,050 a year, tuition is comparable with the diocese’s 31 brick and mortar schools. 

Another diocese partnering with Catholic Virtual is the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. “I’m optimistic this will bring new families into Catholic education,” said Ted Havelka, director for enrollment management and financial assistance for the Brooklyn Diocese’s K-8 schools.

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