Micro-schools are the latest educational alternative to take off as more teachers and parents are fed up with schools keeping their classrooms closed and students falling behind.
As the omicron variant takes hold of the country just before children return to the second half of the school year, the country’s public school system is heating up further. As teacher unions push for another round of distance learning, school districts such as Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Newark and Cleveland are closing classrooms again.
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It is the latest school zigzag that millions of children have faced since March 2020. While some parents prefer distance learning in the current climate of COVID-19, many parents say they are feeling fatigue because of a beginning of deja vu, prompting them to look for a school. options elsewhere.
And prolonged shutdowns, in addition to increased uncertainty, are fueling the rise of options such as micro-schools or learning modules.
Many teachers are starting their own micro-schools to help their children learn in safe small groups without interference from unions, regulations and mandates. Micro-schools typically accommodate 10 to 15 students, but can accommodate up to 150 and focus on personalized teaching through hands-on learning and a project-based approach.
A micro-school on the West Side of Chicago has seen enrollments increase during the pandemic as parents reassessed what quality education looked like. For many, distance learning has taken a closer look at the format of their children’s education, what they were learning, as well as the effects of virtual learning on their child’s development.
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“I think it’s because parents have thought about what kind of education they really want for their child,” said Kristen Ediger, manager of Humboldt Park Montessori, at Varney & Co of FOX Business. “They look at the things we can offer differently, like we go out a lot, and we really individualized the learning and hands-on learning during our school day.”
The flexibility offered by micro-schools is one of the many reasons parents withdraw from the public school system. Public school enrollment fell 3% nationwide from 2019 to 2020 alone, erasing a decade of slow gains. In Chicago’s public schools, enrollment has declined 7% over the past three years, from 355,156 students for the 2019-2020 school year to 330,411 students this school year.
Amid the latest clashes between the city district and the Chicago Teachers Union over safety protocols and requests for negative test results – which have already caused three consecutive days of canceled classes – the Humboldt Park Montessori School on the west side of Chicago took the opposite approach.
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The small size of the school, serving 55 students, allowed it to stay open more frequently and regularly than neighboring public schools this year. Each morning, each student is tested for COVID-19 before the start of the school day, providing parents with the comfort that their child is in a safe learning environment.
“Parents need to change their minds because what we’re doing is giving children a lot of freedom in their own education, and it’s a little different from what traditional schools have done,” Ediger said.
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