Microschools see ‘exponential growth’ in Arizona during COVID-19 pandemic

Aug 30, 2021, 4:45 AM

(Facebook photo/Prenda)...

(Facebook photo/Prenda)

(Facebook photo/Prenda)

PHOENIX — Microschools have taken off during the COVID-19 pandemic and a Mesa-based company that helps run them is fueling much of that growth.

Prenda runs hundreds of microschools throughout Arizona. Kelly Smith, the company’s founder and CEO, explained they follow the same curriculum and testing requirements as traditional public schools but in a much smaller setting.

“It’s a small group of between five and 10 students that come together and meet every day for their school education,” Smith said.

“They do it in an informal space, so this can be a community center, a dance studio, a home.”

He said students have a learning guide, and they follow a format “that’s designed around empowering these kids as learners.”

Smith said the idea for Prenda came from a coding program he started at the Mesa Public Library in 2013.

Students met after school once a week to learn about computer programing.

“Kids were coming and talking to me about how they struggled in their traditional classrooms,” he said.

“Some of them were getting in trouble, some of them were getting bad grades. And they would come and code at the afterschool coding program and thrive.”

He founded the first microschool for Prenda in his own home with seven students in January of 2018.

Since then, Prenda microschools have multiplied. There are now more than 400 Prenda microschools in Arizona and a few other states.

“We saw exponential growth before the pandemic, and then we saw even more exponential growth during the pandemic,” Smith said.

He believes the recent growth is largely from parents who were looking for “a happy medium” between homeschooling and a small learning environment where the risk of infection from COVID-19 would be lower.

Smith added some students have returned to traditional district and charter schools, while others have stayed because they like the learning environment the microschool provides their kids.

“There’s a lot of social development that happens in this environment,” he said.

“On the academic side, there’s this great opportunity for collaborating, discussing, doing science together, debating topics, learning together about historical concepts and being able to push beyond that first layer of facts.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

File photo of a Valley Metro bus. A pedestrian was killed when he was hit by a city bus in downtown...

Pedestrian struck, killed by city bus he was trying to stop in downtown Phoenix

A pedestrian was killed when he was hit by a city bus in downtown Phoenix on Monday night, authorities said.

2 hours ago

Insomnia in the summer may be due to Arizona heat, doctor says...

Serena O'Sullivan

Struggling with insomnia? Arizona summer heat may be to blame, sleep expert says

Arizonans who are dealing with insomnia in the summer months can blame the heat, according to a sleep expert with Banner Health.

5 hours ago

The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office website is now offering a virtual tour of the Maricopa Coun...

Maricopa County Recorder’s Office website offers self-guided virtual tour of elections center

The Maricopa County Recorder's Office website is now offering a virtual tour of the downtown Phoenix elections center.

5 hours ago

Desert tortoises: Do not disturb, AZGFD warns the public...

Wildlife officials warn against disturbing wild desert tortoises

The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) urges the public to keep desert tortoises wild.

5 hours ago

Banner Imaging and HeartFlow are collaborating to offer a new program to help new patients detect c...

Banner selected to test Medicare dementia care model

The model will work to increase care coordination and improve access to services and supports, which includes respite care, people living with dementia and their caregivers.

5 hours ago


Police investigating fatal overnight hit-and-run in central Phoenix

Phoenix PD responded to the area of 19th Avenue and Van Buren Street regarding a collision that involved a pedestrian.

13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Sanderson Ford

3 storylines to get you revved up for the 2024 Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals training camp is just a couple weeks away starting on July 25, and Sanderson Ford is revved up and ready to go.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Microschools see ‘exponential growth’ in Arizona during COVID-19 pandemic