WEST CONTRA COSTA Unified’s permanent online K-12 school, Vista Virtual Academy, had a 17 percent enrollment drop from 505 students in June 2022 to 419 students now, as California emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts.
Although the district launched the Vista Virtual Academy last year to accommodate students who weren’t able to attend classes in person, plans for it were in the works years before the pandemic broke out for families that had expressed interest in online schooling. The academy had become West Contra Costa Unified’s online independent study option, which was required by the state to serve students who weren’t vaccinated by the time the statewide mandate went into effect. Last school year, the district was concerned that it didn’t have enough space in the academy to accommodate all the students who lacked vaccine verification. Now, the academy has no waitlist for grades K-8, and only 16 high school students on the waitlist — down from nearly 400 in December 2021.
The California Department of Public Health told Edsource that the end of the state’s COVID-19 state of emergency on Feb. 28 will effectively end its current plan to add COVID-19 vaccinations to the list of 10 vaccinations children are required to have to attend school in person. West Contra Costa Unified, in 2022, had aligned with the state’s previous vaccine mandate deadline of July 2023. Whether the district will keep its vaccine mandate remains to be seen.
Principal Edith Jordan-McCormick, in a presentation to the West Contra Costa school board Wednesday, said most of the students who have left the academy returned to the in-person schools they were originally enrolled in.
District officials and school board members touted the virtual academy at a school board meeting Wednesday. Board member Mister Phillips, whose daughter attends the virtual academy, said the district was “ahead of the curve” in planning for it prior to the pandemic and that his daughter loves her classes.