The first priority for enrollment at St. Isidore's will be local Catholic families who were attending other schools in the diocese, said Vorbach. After diocesan families have registered, consideration will be given to those from outside the diocese who are interested in a virtual Catholic learning environment. Standard tuition is the same for all families.
Families who enroll at St. Isidore are committing for virtual education for the entirety of the 2020-2021 academic year, said Vorbach. However, their child's slot at their previous diocesan school will be reserved for the 2021-2022 academic year if they wish to return to in-person instruction in the following Autumn.
Vorbach told CNA that the diocese had conducted a series of surveys on virtual learning during the last semester to identify the best practices for a potential hybrid or all-online model for the coming school year.
"The St. Isidore model is the beneficiary of everything that was learned during the spring, both in terms of technical components, as well as pedagogical components, and so on," said Vorbach.
"In the past, you couldn't say necessarily that anybody or any school had really tried to work through 'What's the Catholic identity of a virtual school look like, and how do you do that?'' Vorbach told CNA.
The challenges of running a virtual Catholic school were unprecedented, said Vorbach. He told CNA he was not sure if there is any other entirely-virtual Catholic school in the country, except the Archdiocese of Miami Virtual Catholic School (ADOM-VCS). That school was founded in 2013.
Unlike St. Isidore of Seville, which is for full-time online students in elementary and middle school grades, ADOM-VCS offers both full-time online programs as well as "blended learning" programs with archdiocesan schools for all grades.
"In the spring, through the creative efforts of a lot of teachers and administrators, we saw all kinds of ways in which the Catholic identity and the particular Catholic identity of different parish schools was highlighted, reinforced, strengthened," he said.
While St. Isidore of Seville Virtual School is set to go for the coming school year, Vorbach told CNA that he is not sure if the school will continue on for years to come.
"We want to evaluate the service--the niche, if you will--that this school provides," said Vorbach.
If things go smoothly, and it makes financial sense to continue the school in the future, "we can really seriously look at it as a component of a thorough, flourishing Catholic education going forward in the future," he said.
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Christine Rousselle is a former DC Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. Prior to working at CNA, she was the managing web editor of Townhall.com; she has a BA in political science from Providence College.