Michigan sees spike in K-12 online school enrollment

Layla Dudley is one of the students enrolled at Michigan Connections Academy, a K-12 virtual school. (Nov. 11, 2016)
Layla Dudley is one of the students enrolled at Michigan Connections Academy, a K-12 virtual school. (Nov. 11, 2016)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — More and more parents in Michigan are choosing online schools versus the traditional brick and mortar education.

When the state began allowing online schooling in 2010, there were around 400 students enrolled.

This year, more than 1,700 kids are enrolled at Michigan Connections Academy (MICA), which is a K-12 virtual school.

Alayah, Ah’Nyah, and Layla Dudley live in Grand Rapids and are enrolled at MICA.

Their parents told 24 Hour News 8 they chose the school because they wanted their students to be challenged and receive detailed lesson plans.

Pictured left to right: Layla, Ah’Naya and Alayah Dudley.
Pictured left to right: Layla, Ah’Naya and Alayah Dudley.

“We didn’t have bad experiences per se, but we did want a school that was challenging enough,” said their dad Chris. “Sometimes with brick and mortar schools you have a huge class that you have to go kind of the pace of the class.”

Layla is a third grader, Ah’Naya is in the fifth grade, and Alayah is in eighth. Their parents said that the structure works for all ages of their kids.

The Dudley family has a daily routine down. After breakfast, which is often cooked by Alayah, it’s time to hit the books and computers.

“We are not homeschooling. We are a schooling at home option,” Byan Klochack, the school and district leader at MICA, told 24 Hour News 8 during an interview at the headquarters in Okemos.

“We have highly qualified and Michigan-certified and Michigan-based instructors that are assigned just like in your traditional brick and mortar setting.”

That’s the difference between this option and homeschooling. Parents are not the teachers in this scenario.

MICA teachers call each student on a bi-weekly basis on top of leading “live lessons” online.

“Sometimes the bi-weekly call could be about something I need to work on or I can do better in school with,” said Alayah.

Students receive all the textbooks and learning materials they need, which includes a computer.

Klochack told 24 Hour News 8 it’s that type of support that’s been attracting parents to online schools. The enrollment numbers are up 80 percent nationwide, he said.

“When you go to the store you have many different options to choose the same product, but in education it’s always been kind of limited,” said Klochack.

He added that the school is “not trying to take over the entire schooling market.” Instead, they want to offer options for families with difficult schedules. Some of their students are traveling athletes.

“You hear ‘homeschool’ and you hear ‘brick and mortar,’ and to me online school is kind of in between where you have the structure of brick and mortar and you have the rigorous curriculum,” Chris said.

Klochack and Chris Dudley said that children’s success at any school is always dependent on parent involvement.

They also said that online schools helps families cut down on school violence.