Many decide to return to school as virtual students

WWNY Many decide to return to school as virtual students

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - As back-to-school time approaches, some north country students aren't actually going back to school. Many are opting to remain virtual learners.

Henry Kandler has always enjoyed school libraries. But this year he won't be flipping through books or getting his work done there. He's opting to go entirely virtual this school year.

"I don't like the idea of being in a large group of people while there's a pandemic going on. That just gives me anxiety, I don't like that," said Kandler, a Watertown High School 10th grader.

He's not alone. In the Watertown City School District, 26 percent of the student body will be returning virtually.

"When we first put the parent surveys out, we were kinda surprised at the number of parents who said, no matter the options in the school district, they'd opt to be at home. So, we started looking at different options, being the online only and the hybrid option," said Patti LaBarr, district superintendent.

Not every school district is offering students to return online only so some students from out of district have even been trying to enroll in Watertown.

"But we have a current board policy that doesn't allow for non-resident students," said LaBarr.

So why would students want to stay home? LaBarr says for some it's just how they learn best.

"For some students that really struggle coming into school for some reason, it really worked for them," she said.

Throughout the district, 1,000 students will be staying home. That will help with socially distancing those who are going back to school.

"If there's people like me who don't need to be in person to learn, then I can opt to be distance learning and that can free up space for other students who need to be in person to learn," said Kandler.

And for families or students who are on the fence about returning to school, there’s still time. LaBarr says a student can start the year using the hybrid learning plan and later switch to online only if they want to.

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