HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The start to the next school year will be a return to school days of old. Most Henrico County students will sit down in their homeroom class for the first time, unpack their backpacks of fresh school supplies and start the grind of a new set of courses.
And while the sounds of the bell between classes may ring for those students, there is another batch of kids who will be in their homes and workspaces — remaining virtual.
During a school board meeting in April, the plans behind the Henrico Virtual Academy were shared with the public for the first time. The virtual option gives families who preferred virtual schooling a choice – some families still need more time to feel comfortable sending their students back to class.
Since the plans for the virtual option were revealed, 1,713 students have registered for the program county-wide. This includes kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school students.
For comparison, Deep Run High School’s student body was 1,793 kids during the 2017-2018 school year. The amount of students registered for Henrico’s Virtual Academy is essentially enough to fill a Henrico high school.
The strictly online school will be open for learning in the fall and the majority of the students enrolled are from the county’s East End.
The Varina school district currently has 548 students enrolled with the Fairfield school district following closely behind at 466.
Three Chopt, Brookland and Tuckahoe school districts count for a combined total of 697 students, with the remaining two being undefined.
That is nearly 60% of the students enrolled in the program coming from districts considered to be in the East End of the county.
Out of all the schools in the county, Highland Springs High School leads the way with 127 students enrolled in the virtual program — even though the Springers are getting a brand new campus in the fall.
Tyrone Nelson, the representative for the Varina Magisterial District from Henrico’s Board of Supervisors, said he is “certain” parents have their reasons for their children to enroll in the virtual academy.
“I have heard students with disabilities are thriving virtually,” Nelson said. “People also have concerns about health and safety, as well as some seeing their students doing better in a virtual environment.”
Nelson added that the East End also has more Black residents than other parts of the county.
“Minority students are more prevalent in the East End and parents are still not completely comfortable with kids getting the vaccine,” Nelson said.
According to the Virginia Department of Health’s vaccine statistics, just over 25,000 Black residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine in the county. Over 68,000 white residents have received at least one dose.
U.S. Census demographics show Henrico County’s population consists of 57% white and 30.9% Black residents, and VDH statistics show only 24.4% of the Black resident population has received one dose in Henrico County.
Current students enrolled in the virtual academy each grade level:
- K – 72
- 1 –122
- 2 –146
- 3 – 144
- 4 – 141
- 5 – 123
- Total elementary school = 748
- 6 – 148
- 7 – 163
- 8 – 185
- Total middle school= 496
- 9 – 123
- 10 – 136
- 11 – 115
- 12 – 95
- Total high school = 469
The largest number of students remaining virtual are in elementary school, but that includes six grade levels in comparison to three for middle schools and four for high schools. The average between all grade levels is mostly consistent.