BAYFILED, ONT. -- Bayfield’s Virtual High School (VHS) has seen a lot more students sign up for their private, online courses, this year.

“Probably a 15 per cent increase overall. We have upwards of 12,000 students with us anytime,” says the senior director of operations with the Virtual High School, Sandy Baker.

While VHS sees about five per cent growth each year, the extra enrolments are largely being attributed to COVID-19, and families' fears around sending students back to classrooms.

They’ve even had to hire extra staff and teachers to meet demand.

“A lot of students and families are discovering online schooling options right now. They’re seeing the benefits of these options. We solve a lot of timetable conflicts, we help a lot of Grade 12 students earn prerequisites. A lot of our students are even travelling musicians or athletes,” says Andy McGuire, from the VHS.

With 145 teachers working from home, and 45 staff usually in the Bayfield VHS, which also offers elementary courses, the organization has two decades of experience in offering online courses to students around the world.

“We’ve been at this for the past 20 years now, so we’re tried and tested and we know how to make the best of an online learning experience,” says Baker.

Virtual High School courses range in price from $479 to $579. Elementary courses are less. They have students in 120 countries.  Students decide where and when to study, submit assignments, and write final exams. As the pandemic drags on, VHS is preparing for more enrolments in the coming months.

McGuire says this is a global issue.

“With around-the-clock access to course content, our students can study from anywhere in the world. Our courses flex to student schedules and time zones and learning needs."