Next fall, a new school is launching in the Tacoma Public Schools district, but it’s not your traditional brick-and-mortar school.

Tacoma Online is a fully virtual program families K-12 had the option of enrolling in this past school year. Previously, it was offered to high school students who needed a flexible online learning option.

“I don’t want her back in school until this pandemic is over,” said Star Galvan, whose granddaughter is enrolled in the 4th grade at Tacoma Online. “I just don’t think they’ve calmed [Covid-19] all the way down. I don’t approve of a lot of things being open already. I’m just not ready. I care more about her well-being than about her being in the school.”

It’s a feeling shared by many families this past year. Currently, about 4,400 students are learning strictly under the Tacoma Online curriculum.

Karen Dickinson is a language arts teacher at Tacoma Online and teaches about 150 students. She said class meetings are available daily to students, and many times they can reach out to her for one-on-one help.

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Dickinson said she’s also sending progress reports to parents to inform them of their child’s progress.

“We do have students who really like this format,” said Dickinson. “My students will sometimes ask me, will I be the only one in the meeting, because they want privacy to be vulnerable.”

While Covid-19 prompted Tacoma Public Schools to expand the online program this past year, it wasn’t long before administrators quickly recognized the value in establishing this education option as a standalone school.

“We serve students K-12. It’s fully online. They’re assigned a classroom, teachers, there are counselors and other support staff so they take all their courses through the Tacoma Online program,” said spokesperson Kathryn McCarthy. “There’s clearly a need and a desire from our students and our families for a fully online experience.”

Priority enrollment for Tacoma Online School is open until March 31. Families can enroll their children after that date but a spot in the school will not be guaranteed.

A small number of seats are available to students outside of the Tacoma School District.

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