Since school buildings closed in March, schools have offered a variety of different resources, like paper packets of homework and a patchwork of online class options. And it’s still unclear what schools will look like in the fall or when they’ll reopen. Some even say this might be a chance to retool the school calendar.

In light of all of this uncertainty, some families are considering enrolling their children in virtual schools, which often send families physical items like books and microscopes but design curriculums that are based mostly online.

Are virtual schools the right choice for your family? Are they as effective? How will making the switch affect your neighborhood schools?

During this edition of  Ed Lab Live, reporter Hannah Furfaro and engagement editor Anne Hillman took listener questions and discussed the pros and cons of virtual schools.

Five key takeaways from the conversation are:

  • Hundreds of Washington families are transferring from neighborhood schools to virtual schools.
  • Data on students who attend virtual schools in Washington is incomplete, but anecdotally, they perform worse than traditional school peers.
  • Parents of virtual school students typically need to play a significant role in their children’s education.
  • Not all virtual schools are the same — some are run by school districts, some by for-profit companies.
  • Many virtual schools are free and offer a suite of classes similar to typical schools. For some you have to pay extra for honors classes.

You can check out recordings and transcripts of past events here.