For other parents, the issue was trust. Could their local public school deliver a quality online education?
In Philadelphia, some turned to a network of virtual schools, which was set up by the state before the pandemic.
While these programs are not large, the pandemic fueled their growth, despite the fact that these schools have produced “overwhelmingly negative results” for students in both reading and math compared to brick-and-mortar schools, according to a 2019 study. In the states analyzed by The Times, virtual schools added 20,000 kindergarten students. And in Pennsylvania, their kindergarten enrollment tripled, adding 2,000 students.
For Solomon Carson, the virtual charter program proved challenging. His parents registered him in an online school affiliated with a for-profit company, paid for by the state. (Mr. Carson asked The Times not to identify the program, because Solomon is still enrolled.)
The program promised to provide tutors to work with students in person, which the Carsons believed would help Solomon in subjects like phonics and math.
But to their surprise, the program later told them that, because of the pandemic, face-to-face tutoring was unavailable. They were left to manage on their own, with two other children to home-school, as well.
Gine Ramirez, 36, who lives in North Philadelphia, also put her daughter Bonnylin Sapp into a virtual charter school. She would have preferred in-person education, but classrooms were closed. She also had concerns about the neighborhood school. Her older daughter had withered there, before switching to a virtual charter in fifth grade.