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Clarification of Virtual Instruction

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Dear District Administrators and Independent Charter Schools,

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) knows that many districts and independent charter schools have implemented new virtual learning options for students and families this school year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We also understand that districts, independent charter schools, and parents may be interested in continued access to these virtual education options in the 2021-22 school year and beyond.

Given the changes to the education landscape resulting from COVID-19, the DPI has identified paths available for a district or independent charter school seeking to offer virtual options to its students in the 2021-22 school year. The paths available to a district are based on whether the district wants to provide an option which combines in-person and virtual instruction (hybrid model) or provide completely virtual instruction and whether or not students will be physically present within their school district’s boundaries when class is in session. An independent charter school must utilize the hybrid option if it would like to provide virtual instruction.

Hybrid Option

  • If a district is offering programming with virtual and in-person instructional aspects to an entire school or grade level through innovative instructional design, resident students and open enrolled students may take advantage of that option moving forward into the next school year. An independent charter school may also offer programming with virtual and in-person components.

Fully-Virtual Option

  • A district may opt to provide a completely virtual option for resident students but can’t accept non-resident students through open enrollment into this option unless they operate a virtual charter school.
  • If a district wants to offer a fully-virtual option and open enrolled students will be participating in the option without being physically present in the district each day school is in session, the district must create a virtual charter school. There are resources and technical assistance available for districts interested in pursuing this option, including a model contract for virtual charter schools, available through both DPI and the Wisconsin Resource Center for Charter Schools . If your district is interested in this option, please contact as soon as possible for additional information. Note that, per state law, independent charter school authorizers cannot create virtual schools.
  • Alternatively, a district may opt to join a virtual charter school consortium (another district serves as authorizer). To utilize this option, the district must enter into an intergovernmental cooperative agreement under Wis. Stat. s. 66.0301 with the virtual charter school’s authorizing district. This could be a new charter school opening in the 2021-22 school year (see bullet above) or an existing virtual charter school. A list of currently operating virtual charter schools and consortium charter schools is available on the Currently Operating Charter Schools webpage.
  • If a district joins a virtual charter school consortium as described above, the district’s students may remain enrolled in their resident district and access the virtual charter school without utilizing open enrollment or being physically present in the authorizing district. After receiving a copy of the intergovernmental cooperative agreement, DPI will work with the school and consortium district to assign the school a code/establish an iteration of the virtual charter school within the consortium district and DPI’s systems for reporting purposes.  Independent charter schools may not join a virtual charter school consortium.

If you have additional questions please contact Chanell Crawford, Parental Educational Options Team , (608) 266-5880.