Florida Virtual School is taking financial precautions

Florida Virtual School has halted hiring and is taking other cautious financial steps amid a drop in the number of full-time students completing courses over the past year.

Course completion is a key metric for the school, which only gets paid if students finish online classes.

After a significant influx of enrollments in recent years fueled by the shift to online learning during the coronavirus pandemic, the number of students completing courses through the virtual school has declined.

“Yes, the overall drop has been due to COVID, the post-COVID comeback, in all financials, actually,” Louis Algaze, president and CEO of Florida Virtual School, said during a meeting of school administrators on Tuesday.

A quarterly financial report given to the trustees described the decline.

The report showed that full-time students completed 50,624 courses from July 1 to March 31. That represents a decrease of 17,379 courses from the same period last year, when full-time students completed 68,003 courses.

Florida Virtual School, however, saw an increase in the completion of part-time “flex” courses. According to the Florida Virtual School website, the flexible program provides online instruction to public, private, and home-schooled students who “receive their primary education through a traditional brick-and-mortar school.”

The financial report showed 376,444 flex courses completed from July 1 to March 31. During the same period last year, the school recorded 368,430 flexible courses completed.

Meanwhile, Florida Virtual School’s expenses have outpaced revenue growth within its operating fund, according to the report.

The school reported $233,406,574 in revenue through the end of March, an increase of nearly $4 million from the previous year. But it spent $227,676,941, almost $13.9 million more than last year.

“What caused the most expenses this year?” asked trustee John Watret during Tuesday’s meeting.

Algaze attributed the boost in part to wage spending.

The virtual school has avoided cutting staff in anticipation of “slight increases” in course completion next year, he said.

“We didn’t have a staff layoff to make sure we maintain services for students,” Algaze said. “And in (the) projection of next year, we would have hated to lay off a lot of staff and then as we project some increases here in the next year, slight increases, have to bring back different staff. .”

Algaze also noted that Florida Virtual School has put a “pause” on all hiring and has not been “filling” positions.

“However, it appears to me that it is overstaffed,” trustee Edward Pozzuoli told Algaze.

“We have quite a bit of staff in the teaching area,” Algaze replied.

Overall, Algaze said, the virtual school expects an increase in revenue by June 30, which is the end of the current fiscal year, while expenses will remain flat.

But Pozzuoli pressed Algaze about the school’s finances, asking if he had a “plan B” to mitigate the situation.

“Absolutely. Yes. Again, talking about layoffs is not something that builds a lot of staff morale. So, we have plans if necessary. We haven’t filled many positions because there has been a natural attrition, as people will retire here soon as people have quit for whatever reason,” Algaze said.

Florida Virtual School’s revenue comes primarily from the Florida Education Finance Program, the state’s primary source of funding for public schools.

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