Back to school in NC: Exploring 3 options for remote learning this school year

North Carolina is already tracking five COVID-19 outbreaks in school settings: Four in child care centers and one in a high school outside of Charlotte. With that in mind, parents weigh their back-to-school options for the Fall.

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Kathryn Brown
, WRAL anchor/reporter

North Carolina is already tracking five COVID-19 outbreaks in school settings: Four in child care centers and one in a high school outside of Charlotte.

When schools announce their plans to reopen the classrooms, will parents feel comfortable sending their children?

While most children aren't likely to suffer serious side effects from the coronavirus, there is an even larger threat: Bringing the virus home and spreading it among family members.

That's a risk many parents won't take.

"Right now, I'm not sending them," said Jacklyn Faiola, a worried parent.

Faiola is convinced sending her kids back to school in the Fall is a bad move.

She's the mother of an elementary and middle schooler, and she has multiple concerns about her boys returning to the classroom. With a baby at home and another baby on the way, she has to weigh the risks of sending her older children to school.

"I’m worried they’ll bring it home to me with the baby. Plus I’m due in October so that’s flu season so its double and its just concerning," she said.

School systems are working on several plans to reopen and react to the virus.

What options do parents and students have?

Option one: Return to school, following the school system's new strategy

The first option is go along with the local school system's new classroom plan.

Faiola doesn't think that's a good option.

"I just don’t see how they’re gonna stay in one classroom all day in one seat. I mean to me it's just not fair to them or to the teachers," she said.

Option two: School system online learning

The second option is for classes to take online classes that school systems and teachers across the state are working on.

We're still waiting on details about what those kinds of classes will look like.

"That probably would be easier for me to make that decision – for them to be totally remote," said Faiola.

Option three: NC Virtual Charter Academy

A third choice in the North Carolina Virtual Charter Academy.

It's tuition-free and enrollment is already open. Students can receive a loaner computer, printer and receive an internet stipend.

The one fall back: the school is capped, so if you apply, you may not get in.

"In a time of crisis we want to help all students and all families," said Lauren Acome, a representative for the NC Virtual Charter Academy.

"Our students attend live classes every single day. They are in school for six hours, and they interact with their teacher and they see their classmates," said said.

Option four: Homeschooling

If those choices aren't ideal, number four on the list is homeschooling.

"If I had to homeschool them, I think I could. I just haven’t looked into it yet," said Faiola.

Matthew McDill with North Carolinians for Home Education said interest in homeschooling is growing because of the pandemic. He said parents shouldn't be scared because the system offers so many resources – many of them free.

McDill said a lot of families have been reaching out.

He said the virus could be the tipping point for parents who already had concerns about public schools.

He had a message for parents who are nervous about their ability to manage homeschooling their children.

"I would encourage people to just get right over that hump of worrying that you may not be able to do it," he said.

This could be a good option for parents – even if it's just for the Fall.

"But I’m not going to keep them out for the whole year! Just until things like settle down I think," said Faiola.

Parents are getting prepared to make a decision – one way or another

If homeschooling is on the table for you, McDill's group is holding a conference in early August where parents can learn a lot more.

There has also been some talk of possibly raising the cap at the state's virtual academy because of the pandemic.

The school systems should provide more details about local online learning options later this week.


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