DENVER, CO - APRIL 8: Matt Dodge, a member of the DPS department of tech services, hands computers to each family waiting in a long line of cars. Lines of cars and people on foot arrive at Abraham Lincoln High School to pick up computers needed for online learning during the COVID-19 outbreak on April 8, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. Denver Public School officials were on hand to check out some 160 computers to K-12 students on a first-come first-served basis at 12 DPS locations, including Abraham Lincoln High School. (Photo By Kathryn Scott)

Colorado’s state-sponsored online school has been overwhelmed by demand as a diverse collection of districts turn to the nonprofit provider to serve students whose parents don’t want them in a classroom during the pandemic.

Colorado Digital Learning Solutions had to suspend registration just a few days after it opened last week to work through a backlog of requests, and the organization is scrambling to hire enough teachers to keep up. The online program has been asking schools for enrollment estimates since June, but demand ballooned in the last two weeks as parents finally made their decisions.


The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTINGHere’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • VACCINE HOTLINE: Get up-to-date information.


“It almost scares me when I look at this dashboard,” executive director Dan Morris said on Sunday as he worked through the weekend to catch up.

Designed as a supplemental service to help students in small districts access more specialized coursework, Colorado Digital Learning Solutions shifted gears over the summer to serve as the designated online school for districts that aren’t able to create their own programs, vet material, and train teachers to teach over a computer screen.

There are now 170 school districts and charter organizations representing roughly 300 schools working with Colorado Digital Learning Solutions, up from 125 last school year. The online provider previously worked almost entirely with small, rural districts, but now it’s providing online courses and teacher training to medium-size districts along the Front Range as well. Some are outsourcing their entire online program, while others are using the system to offer more electives to students staying home.

Colorado Digital Learning Solutions isn’t the only online option in the state. The state and some school districts authorize online charter schools, and most large districts have their own online programs.

But if students from one district leave for another, or for a statewide charter school, Colorado Digital Learning Solutions had to suspend registration just a few days after it opened last week to work through a backlog of requests. Districts that enroll students in Colorado Digital Learning Solutions pay a fee to the online provider, but keep much of the state funding.


Erica Meltzer, Chalkbeat

Bureau Chief — Chalkbeat Colorado Email: