ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- A new way of counting virtual students is affecting how much Clay County Schools receives in funding from the state.
School leaders say they could lose millions of dollars if local students enroll in online courses offered by companies outside of the district.
Clay Virtual Academy was created, in part, as a response to that shortfall.
Kindergarten and first-grade teacher Carol Cochuyt uses her webcam to teach four young siblings the alphabet.
"I'm normally doing story time from my dining room table, which is wonderful," said Cochuyt.
She's one of 20 teachers at Clay Virtual Academy. The program recently debuted their new building thanks to a spike in enrollment.
But while more students are opting for Clay County's version of online education, those who are enrolled in a program offered outside of the county still outnumber them.
"If a student chooses half their classes in the brick and mortar and half their classes through Florida Virtual School, then basically the county will have lost half of that money," said Alisa Jones, supervisor of Instructional Resources.
Districts receive funding based on the amount of students they have. More students equals more funding but if students enroll in virtual programs run by companies outside the county they won't be "counted" and that money won't flow into our local classrooms.
"We estimated that the county could stand to lose $3 million if we don't make certain that those students know of their choice to stick with Clay Virtual and keep that money within the district," said Jones.
This year's enrollment numbers for Clay Virtual Academy
is more than 380 students. Jones said she expects that number to continue to climb.
Clay County only keeps the funding for virtual students if they successfully pass their courses.