Epic Charter Schools is now the largest district in Oklahoma, and they are still growing.
Epic Charter Schools Superintendent Bart Banfield said the charter school enrolled more than 500 students just yesterday, but there's a lot of concern from lawmakers about the growing number of families making the switch.
Waldron's son just started virtual classes at Tulsa Public Schools this week and laughed when he saw his teacher during her welcome video.
"One of his teachers fell off her chair and I thought what kind of disaster is going on and when she popped up from behind her desk she was wearing this curly wig, and I thought there's still a way we can make this work,” said House District 77 Representative John Waldron.
Waldron said he can already tell teachers are doing everything they can to connect with students on this new platform.
"Oklahoma has always had such a problematic school system that our teachers have been fixers from day one,” said Waldron. “They've learned how to fix a broken system for the kid and that's what they're going to do again this year.”
Epic Charter Schools latest enrollment numbers show 58, 843 students are planning to attend the Virtual Charter School this fall. The numbers also show 8,977 of those students are coming from schools in Tulsa County. Creek and Wagoner Counties both have just over one thousand students making the switch.
"We surveyed families coming to Epic and we asked them ‘why did you choose’ Epic charter schools and only one out of two said it was COVID-19 related,” said Epic Charter Schools Superintendent Bart Banfield.
Superintendent Banfield said they've seen a dramatic increase in enrollment this summer and believes it was because parents already had a taste of virtual schooling in public schools this spring.
"That was sort of a test drive for a lot of public schools and I think the first time they ever ventured in that direction so I think parents have a pretty good feel for what their local school district can do,” Superintendent Banfield said.
Banfield said Epic’s current ratio is 37 students to 1 teacher, and as their student population increases, so does their need for teachers.
"We are confident we are going to be able to bring that ratio down to a level that we feel good about and the families we serve feel good about,” said Superintendent Banfield.
However, as virtual charter schools like Epic continue to grow, some are concerned about it what means for the future of Oklahoma’s traditional schools.
"We all depend on a community based public school system and if we pull all of these students and the students and the resources that go with them and we pull all these qualified teachers out of our public schools, we could do real long term damage to a system everyone depends on,” said Waldron.
Epic starts their school year on Tuesday September 8.