Does Oklahoma’s educational landscape have room for more virtual charter schools? That’s a question the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board — the only entity under state law that can authorize such schools — will be considering after hearing proposals from two new virtual school applicants.

The board met Tuesday and listened to presentations from Virtual Preparatory Academy of Oklahoma and Scissortail Preparatory Academy. Both want to open in Oklahoma but need the board’s approval.

Oklahoma has six statewide online schools with a combined 29,000 students that fall under the board’s purview. Enrollment is down 32% following an influx of students in 2020 during the pandemic.

Only one virtual charter school grew this year, the newest: Oklahoma Information & Technology School.

The school is part of Dove Charter Schools, which has operated brick-and-mortar schools in Oklahoma City and Tulsa for more than 20 years. There’s an advertisement for the virtual school on the marquee outside of Dove in Oklahoma City at the busy intersection of Interstates 35 and 240. And they’ve been sending mailers to prospective students.

Despite all that, in its inaugural year — 2020-21 — with students flocking to virtual schools amid the pandemic, just 25 students chose to attend. This year, the school grew to 64.

Which is why the new proposed schools’ enrollment estimates are surprising.

A critical part of a new charter school proposal is its budget. Because schools are funded per student, the estimated enrollment determines its expected revenue.

Virtual Preparatory Academy of Oklahoma presented a plan Tuesday based on enrolling 500 students in its first year. Scissortail Preparatory Academy estimated it will start with 1,200 students.

Board Chairman Robert Franklin questioned how Scissortail came up with its projection. And the presenter, attorney and former state Rep. John Paul Jordan, wasn’t sure.

Franklin said “Choice is really important to me. I just want to do it realistically.”

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— Jennifer Palmer

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