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Epic Charter Schools begins to lay off employees amid massive enrollment drop

Whitney Bryen
Oklahoma Watch

At the start of the pandemic in 2020, students left Oklahoma public schools and flocked to the state's virtual charter behemoth.

Epic Charter Schools' enrollment grew to more than 60,000 students.

But this fall, they’re flocking away as many have returned to traditional in-school instruction.

Superintendent Bart Banfield wrote that 3 out of 5 Epic students - more than 30,000 - have left the district. As a result, the school began laying off staff last week.

Epic currently employs nearly 2,000 people. It’s unclear how many people will be affected, but the so-called “rightsizing” will continue this month.

"We simply do not need and cannot afford to be staffed for 61,000 kids, when our enrollment has begun to even out post-pandemic," Banfield said.

The school - which has found itself at the center of several scandals - has severed ties with its for-profit management company and remade its board. Those moves come after a scathing audit that found the district misused millions of public dollars.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Robby Korth grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Nebraska with a journalism degree.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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