Epic Charter online school responds to critics

Epic online school is the fifth largest school system in the state. (Aranda/KTUL)

Welcome to aftercare at Epic, where the kids are part of one of the state's fastest growing school systems.

"We have over 22,000 students," said Epic Deputy Superintendent Shelly Hickman.

What's the demographic of an Epic kid?

"That’s the million dollar question, there is no demographic. There’s a wide appeal for this instructional model, and it’s very difficult for us to generalize why families are coming to us," she said.

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So many families are going to them, they've become something of a target for traditional school systems to criticize.

"For one thing, we get a lot of students who come back to the district who've fallen very, very far behind, and then we need to do the work to get them caught back up again," said Dr. Deborah Gist with Tulsa Public Schools.

"With all due respect to Dr. Gist, she’s only telling half the story. She’s not saying how credit deficit and below grade level those students were when they came to us, and almost in every single case, they were at least one grade level behind," said Hickman.

There are also questions about whether or not they're open to the same level of scrutiny.

"We would just advocate for the same kind of transparency and accountability that we have here with public schools," said Rob Loeber of Jenks Public Schools.

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"We have the same state audits that they have to go through every year that look at every detail of where our dollars are going. We have to go through the same federal audits," said Hickman.

Instead of pointing fingers at us, says Epic, take a look at yourselves, public schools.

"Step back and ask yourself, 'Why are they leaving?' You know we don’t make them come to Epic; we don’t seek them out," said Dyan Kincaid, an Epic teacher who also has two kids in the Epic system.

"I feel like that in traditional school, I always really felt like I had a personal connection with my students until I came to Epic, now I have a personal connection with my students," she said.

That's due, in part, to Epic's approach of keeping a student paired with their primary teacher for their entire academic career.

"We call it 'looping,' and so, say I get a student, like if I have a Pre-K kid, then I will keep that student their entire time that they’re at Epic," said Epic teacher Summer Neel. She used to teach for Broken Arrow and likewise applauds the Epic approach.

"Whereas I had 147 students in the brick and mortar when I was in the public school system, I have about 42 right now. So, I can give a lot more undivided, individualized attention to my students," she said.

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