(WSYM) — The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in homeschooling, and with the delta variant spreading and kids under 12 not eligible for the vaccine, many parents are once again grappling with that decision.
"There's a hesitancy right now and that hesitancy has everything to do with safety," Cindy Eggleton, the co-founder and CEO of Brilliant Detroit, said.
The company operates 12 neighborhood hubs in Detroit offering support to students through tutoring, literacy programs and digital hubs.
As COVID-19 case numbers rise, concern among parents does too. In Auburn Hills, Jeremy Mitchell has a 12-year-old who will attend 8th grade in person.
"We got her vaccinated and we felt it was a better education process," he said. "She did virtual last year and it just seemed like she had more success going in person than she did virtual."
He said the decision wasn't easy. He kept talking to doctors, but at the end of the day, he's hoping its the best decision for her.
Some parents are making the tough decision to keep kids home.
Toni Daniel is a mom of two. She said she's keeping her son, who has sepcial needs, home as he has underlying conditions like asthma, and he won't keep his mask on the entire day.
"He does need to be in school because he has autism, but as a parent, I have to protect him," she said.
According to MI School Data, enrollment statewide has been on a steady decline for the last 10 years. Last year, it took a sharp turn downward.
The official student headcount for 2020-21 was 1,437,612. That's down 4.1% or 61,910 fewer students than the year before.
Meanwhile, enrollment at full-time virtual schools grew by nearly 10,000 last year and since spring of 2020, the number of households choosing independent parent & child-led homeschooling has doubled.
A U.S. Census Bureau survey found it went from 5.4% to 11.1%.
The biggest increase came in communities of color. Black families saw a 500% increase in home-school households, skyrocketing from 3.3% to 16.1%.
That's due in part because some public schools virtual programming wasn't addressing student needs.
Community resources like Brilliant Detroit have been supporting parents no matter their decision.
We are doing outside programming right now, with funding with the city, Rock and United Way to be able to actually have digital hubs," Eggleton said. "The community foundation funded us to have a digital navigator and that is to work with families one on one as well as in a group its more than having a device."