The pandemic has forced many parents, teachers and students to quickly turn to virtual school. Although some students are currently participating in blended learning, where half of their time is spent in a physical school and the other half learning at home, some have completely reverted to virtual learning. Although it seems that a virtual environment reduces costs, there are still expenses for schools and parents that cannot be ignored.
In the United States, the average cost per in-person public school student from elementary through high school is $14,376, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This was back when school was five days a week, 180 days a year, which isn’t exactly the case with virtual school.
The US Census Bureau reports that students receive 3.8 hours per week of live instruction, while the rest of their material is delivered via online reading materials and videos. If the online instruction doesn’t come directly from teachers at the school, it does come from tutoring companies such as TutorMe, Varsity Tutors, or Outschool. These typically cost around $20 an hour for a class of nine or more students. The typical class size is 21, according to Zippia. If you break that down for 36 weeks, with 3.8 hours of live instruction per week, that comes out to about $131 per student.
Additional materials can come from teachers or from companies that specialize in making them, such as Study Island. Study Island costs $5.50 per student per subject for schools. This includes practice, assessments and learning games.
If students don’t have access to the internet or the necessary technology, schools cover that too. USA Facts reports that 17% of children ages 3 to 18 live in households without laptops or desktop computers. The Chromebook typically used in schools costs around $220.
About 14% of children between the ages of 3 and 18 do not have access to the Internet, reports USA Facts. A school would have to pay $64 per month per student for Internet access.
In May 2020, 95% of schools would provide meals to students. The School Nutrition Association estimates that it costs $3.81 per student for lunch and $2.72 per student for breakfast. That’s $6.53 per eligible student per day, or $1,175.40 per year per participating student.
Not all schools deliver these meals. If they did, the typical delivery charge would be $3.99, or $718 per participating student per year. About one in six students are reported to have meals delivered; this represents a meal cost of $720 per year per student.
For the parents
Many parents have returned to work, so childcare is a necessary expense. If your kids are learning remotely, you’ll need a babysitter, which costs an average of $16 per hour, which could equate to $320 to $500.
If you decide to invest in a teacher or tutor to augment your child’s virtual schooling, it could cost $1,500 to $3,000 per week, according to Care.com. If that cost is too high, consider forming a “group” with other families to split the cost, which could help reduce your weekly bill to $250 instead of $1,500.
Your children will need a place to study. Although a kitchen table will do, if you want them to have their own space, they’ll need a desk, which can cost $100 per child. They might also need noise canceling headphones – for you and for them. That’s another $40 per student.
The average amount spent on various items during back-to-school shopping was $849.90 per household in 2021. The majority of this amount was spent on new electronics for virtual learning environments. Although some additional learning resources are paid for by teachers, parents might also be responsible for these subscriptions. There may be movies kids need to watch on Netflix or other informational sites parents need to pay for during distance learning.
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