FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. -- A big change has already come to the Florida Virtual School and it may already be affecting your child.
More than 700 employees were recently laid off from across the state and most of them are teachers. A teacher who chose to leave is sharing her story with First Coast News' Consumer reporter, David Williams.
Cheryl Swopes told FCN she used to spend up to 10 hours a day on her computer, teaching students virtually. But now, she said things are changing.
Swopes taught high school Algebra 2 with the Florida Virtual School since 2008 after teaching in a brick-and-mortar school for 11 years.
"You don't have that connection where you're physically in front of them in the classroom," Swopes said. "But you do get to know them better because you're talking with them on the phone."
The mother of a young child, Swopes had about 175 students online. But she told FCN that she decided to leave to start her own business. Friday was Swopes' last day.
FCN asked Swopes if she thought the Florida Virtual School provides a good educational experience.
"I think it works for some kids and it's not right for other kids," she said. "It depends on the student. Virtual school is not for everyone."
Swopes' leaving the virtual school comes the same week as 177 full-time remote teachers and support staff were laid off. Tania Clow, a spokesperson for the Florida Virtual School, said another 625 part-time remote teachers were laid off in July.
Clow said it was the result of a 32 percent drop in pre-enrollment for the first time in 16 years. Clow pointed to a new legislative funding model.
Swopes said "My heart went ... 'Oh my God. Right before the school year starts?' What are they going to do to find a job?"
Clow said in part, "The entire FLVS family is saddened by the new realities we are facing. For many, these wonderful, caring and professional individuals are not only colleagues, but friends."
Swopes told FCN that she is not angry and she can understand why the cuts were made. But Swopes said students will notice the changes.
"Some of them are going to be upset. 'Why am I changing teachers? Some of them might think 'What did I do wrong?' and they didn't do anything wrong.'" She said.
FCN is told online students are the focus and will be transitioned to other teachers.
Clow said the full-time teachers who were laid off will be paid through August 23. Clow said all laid off teachers will get letters of recommendation. Clow added that job search services will be available for affected teachers.
Clow also said Florida Virtual School is a state-funded public school. According to Clow, they only receive funding if a child passes a course.
First Coast News