SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — After becoming the chosen learning platform during the pandemic, virtual learning is still being used in some capacity by many across Missouri.

Those with the Launch Virtual Learning Center here in Springfield said they add new students to their program every single day.

“We are currently serving over 45,000 enrollments this year,” said Virtual Learning and Launch Director, Nichole Lemmon. “For the first time in the history of our program, we still haven’t hit our peak enrollment in October, so we’re still growing. 75% of the school districts in the state now utilize our programming in some capacity.”

Lemmon said virtual learning isn’t just for pandemic response. Their program has been working to solve the new statewide issue of teacher shortages.

“We offer districts who can’t find math and science teachers, who can’t find foreign language teachers, so their student might be sitting in their school district, but for a block or two a day, they jump on and take a class with Launch,” Lemmon said.

She said the teacher shortage isn’t just affecting rural school districts.

“We have urban school districts in our state who cannot find teachers right now and they call me every day and they say, we just had a teacher leave, or we just had some kind of crisis in our district,” Lemmon said.

The future of virtual learning may look different than it did at the beginning of the pandemic. However, Lemmon said she thinks online learning isn’t going away.

“I think what we will see in the future are hybrid models,” Lemmon said. “So, kids who take some seated and some online. I think that is the ideal situation for lots of families.”

She said it’s important to remember many kids haven’t been back in a school building since when the pandemic first hit.

Lemmon said Launch has recently expanded mental health support to help students virtually during the pandemic.