Thousands of Oklahoma kids stayed in virtual school. What’s next?

When his parents enrolled him full-time virtual learning, Cayden Carpenter was split. 

Cayden, 14, had played sports his whole life, but his school district, Bethel Public Schools in Shawnee, wouldn’t allow virtual students to do athletics. He would miss baseball and wrestling, not to mention his friends at school. 

On the other hand, he liked the independence and condensed school day of online classes. 

It was seventh grade without the “pointless stuff.”  

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“You just get on the computer, and you get right to it,” Cayden said. “It was the difference between three hours of working every day and seven hours working every day.” 

Cayden Carpenter, 14, does online schoolwork at home in Pottawatomie County.

Cayden and his 11-year-old sister, Quinn, were among more than 181,000 Oklahoma schoolchildren — over a quarter of all public school students in the state — enrolled full time in online-only instruction.  

That includes the growing number of students who attended virtual charter schools, the largest of which is now the biggest school system in the state. 

Now, thousands of families are weighing whether to return to traditional schooling in August.