Student enrollment in the Lafayette Online Academy is surging as families rush to make back-to-school plans with less than a month until students return Aug. 17.

Lafayette Parish School System spokesperson Allison Dickerson said in an email the Lafayette Online Academy had received 4,500 applications as of Monday. Lafayette Online Academy Principal Jarrett Coutee said in May last year’s student enrollment stood at about 200 students in grades K-12.

The application spike prompted the district to set an Aug. 3 deadline for applicants; usually the school accepts students year round, but staff members need time to assess need and make staffing decisions, including hiring or transferring teachers to the academy to meet student support needs, school board member Justin Centanni said.

The Lafayette Online Academy is a virtual learning alternative for parents who don’t want to send their children back to school in-person this fall because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, the district announced a reopening plan that will have K-12 students attend classes on a hybrid schedule, with alternating days spent in a classroom and completing work virtually. The students will be split into A and B attendance groups based on their home address.

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Safety and sanitation measures were also announced, in part, including rules requiring hand washing or sanitation at two-hour intervals and at other key times during the day, frequent sanitation of high touch surfaces and high traffic areas, and restrictions on group sizes and bus capacity.

School board members and district staff are hosting a live Q-and-A Tuesday at 6 p.m. to address parent questions about the online academy. It will be live streamed on the “LPSS Meetings” YouTube channel.

Centanni said Coutee will give a presentation covering how the academy functions, what student learning would look like and what expectations are for students and parents, before shifting to submitted questions.

Parents can send questions to Questions will be accepted throughout the meeting.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story misspelled Lafayette Online Academy Principal Jarrett Coutee's name. The Acadiana Advocate regrets the error. 

Email Katie Gagliano at