Illinois Virtual School bounces back after losing federal funding

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — With most schools wanting to back to in-person learning, Illinois Virtual School still offers an online learning option, especially with the prominence of the delta variant rising.

In January of 2020, the Illinois Virtual School (IVS) was stripped of all its federal funding.

Being one of the few virtual schools in Illinois, the school had to figure out how to continue educating its students.

IVS Executive Director Kip Pygman said most of their funding came from the Illinois State Board of Education.

“In the past, that represented about 40% of our annual operating budget,” said Pygman.

When they found out halfway through the school year, the school had its budget set in stone. As a result, the school had to eliminate 33% of the teacher’s salary and raise the price of tuition from $220 per course, to $240 per course.

But that did not stop Misty Mapes, a credit recovery service, English teacher, and instructional coach for teachers at IVS, from teaching there.

“Most teachers are not in the job for the money. So although it’s a lot of work for less pay, I really do think that most of the teachers stay because of their dedication to the program and what it means for the students across Illinois,” Mapes said.

Pygman said the pandemic, however, made a difference in enrollment numbers.

“Fortunately, for us, we have seen an increase in enrollments, due to COVID-19 and the pandemic, that has been very positive and beneficial for us in terms of the financial side,” said Pygman.

While Pygman said higher enrollment numbers were great for financial reasons, it made teaching slightly more difficult, especially for students who had never taken a course through IVS previously.

“A lot of times, they were in four or five classes at the same time, which was really overwhelming, so we worked out plans for them,” said Bonita Walker-Jones, an English teacher at IVS.

Walker-Jones said despite the difficulties the school has faced, she loves her job and believes technology and virtual teaching is the future for generations to come.

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