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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – Many schools around the Tennessee Valley have announced their plans for the upcoming school year, but not all parents are on board with traditional learning this year, especially as concerns over variants continue to grow, that concern reflecting in enrollment numbers for the Alabama Virtual Academy ahead of their 6th annual school year.

Only around 1,500 of a total 5,000 spots remain at the Alabama Virtual Academy, also known as ALVA, and it has not even hit peak enrollment season.

“We start to ramp up closer to the end of July and early August, but our re-registration numbers have been the highest we’ve seen than any other year,” Head of School Melissa Stokke Larson said.

ALVA is a public school dedicated to running fully virtually. They offer a curriculum for those from Kindergarten through 12th grade.

90% of ALVA’s students have re-enrolled for another year. Larson said they even expanded the Academy after the pandemic brought an additional 1,000 new students.

“We thought, ‘when the brick and mortar opens back up, that’s probably where they’ll go back to,’ they just came to us for COVID,” Larson said, “We were surprised that our re-reg[istration] stayed as high as it did compared to past years.”

Madison County mom Carissa Flippo has two sons currently enrolled at ALVA. She enrolled her elder son a few years ago until they could move to their ideal school district, then when they moved down the street from Monrovia Elementary, he returned to traditional learning.

Both sons, however, were switched to ALVA after the school year ended in 2020, Flippo saying their decision was heavily influenced by the pandemic.

Flippo said her sons learned well from home, and it helped her too as a parent who also works full-time.

“I needed something that I could expect and have a clear format versus a “were going to be in school, we’re not going to be in school,” Flippo said.

This year she gave her sons the choice to return to traditional learning, but they preferred the learning style ALVA offered.

“Whenever I gave them that option over the summer, all the numbers were going down, so then I was thinking, ‘this could be an option to go back,’ but certainly seeing the numbers going back in the direction we don’t want them going, I feel much safer,” she said.

Larson said stability and safety are two big selling points for parents who choose to re-enroll their kids for another year at ALVA.

ALVA is independent from local school district virtual learning academies.