Private institutions are attracting wealthy families who are frustrated with public schools' flip-flopping on remote and in-person learning.

The trend is weakening public schools, which will lose funding as they lose students, and deepening the divide between how rich and poor kids are educated.

In districts across America, public schools have had to follow local and state guidelines and stick with online school, while private schools have offered in-person alternatives.

That's appealing to parents who are fed up with virtual learning because it forces them to juggle work and child care, or because the schooling is not as high in quality as in-person instruction.

Just 5% of private schools were virtual this fall, according to survey data from the National Association of Independent Schools, cited by CNBC. Compare that with the 62% of public schoolkids who started the fall on Zoom, per Burbio, which has been tracking public school re-opening plans.

Private schools have a clear advantage in how they've been able to handle the pandemic:

They were able to devise and advertise their reopening plans throughout the summer while public schools waited to hear from officials.
They have the money to build tents for outdoor instruction or pay for testing to stay open even as cases rise.

And it's working. Private schools in several states have seen applications surge, reports the New York Times. And some of the country's biggest districts — like New York and Los Angeles — are losing thousands of students, per Axios' Oriana Gonzalez.

"The pandemic is an opportunity for privatization and you see people really feeding into that," says Jon Hale, a professor of education at the University of Illinois.