Virtual K-8 draws 700 applicants in four days

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 10, 2020

By Carl Blankenship

SALISBURY – Rowan-Salisbury School’s new virtual K-8 school has drawn 700 enrollees since applications opened on Monday.

Meanwhile, virtual school Principal Amy Pruitt, also director of Horizons Unlimited, said the initial cap the district discussed for the school is 1,000 students, but that number could change because of the significant interest. Enrollment for the virtual school is open until next Friday.

Uncertainty still surrounds how or if schools will open in August. Gov. Roy Cooper declined to make a decision earlier this month and now says he’ll do so next week. But there is a real possibility of beginning classes virtually for the entire district.

Students enrolled with the virtual school would perform distance learning all year whether the state allows schools to reopen or not. Schools could also be allowed to reopen partway into the year. Traditional students could return to classes while virtual students could continue distance learning.

Horizons Unlimited will be the hub for the virtual school. It has spent the summer hosting virtual versions of its annual summer camp programming, and Pruitt said she has wanted a virtual option in the district for some time.

Pruitt noted the district-wide virtual learning at the end of last year was due to and planned during an emergency. The virtual programming for the coming school year will be planned ahead of time, and there will be opportunities for students to take on projects they are interested in. Pursuing unique life goals is a major part of the district’s renewal plan.

Other districts already have virtual options. There also is a virtual charter school, N.C. Connections Academy, which has been holding classes in the state for years. The district spent two months hosting classes virtual after schools were ordered to close in March and was already hosting occasional elearning days which keep students home for the day and working on virtual activities.

East Rowan High School started its virtual academy last year with a pilot program allowing some students to take a mixture of virtual and in-person classes as well as going all-virtual. Students who do not live within East Rowan’s area can still apply to the academy.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools hosted an interest meeting for its virtual school Monday and will hold two more Thursday in English and Spanish. Rowan-Salisbury this week also hosted an exceptional children forum for parents to ask questions about the school.

How the district will feed virtual students is still unclear. Until August 31, the district is still subject to the executive order that all children can be fed for free. The district is delivering about 50,000 meals a week via yellow school buses.

RSS Nutrition Director Lisa Altmann said the district will simply continue serving meals as is if schools return to all virtual learning and all the current exceptions and waivers stay in place. If classes resume, Altmann said, the district would need to explore options for getting meals to children during the summer.

Altmann said the district may be able to distribute meals to virtual students via its “yum yum” buses it uses for normal summer feeding programs if the district is not still under special exceptions for not feeding students in groups.

Meal pickup is another possibility, though Altmann is unsure of what will be allowed later in the year. She said the district should be able to feed the students.

To register in English for the virtual school, visit:

To register in Spanish, visit:

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

email author More by Carl