Education

Cumberland to do all-virtual learning for first 6 weeks of school

Posted July 21, 2020 9:15 a.m. EDT
Updated July 21, 2020 7:14 p.m. EDT

— Cumberland County Schools will operate under Plan C, all-remote learning, for at least the first six weeks of school.

School starts on Aug. 17. Per a unanimous vote from the Cumberland County Board of Education, students will learn from home through at least Sept. 25. Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Marvin Connelly Jr. said the goal will be to eventually move to Plan B, a mixture of in-classroom and remote learning, at some point in the semester.

The superintendent and school board members agreed the increase in COVID-19 cases in Cumberland County made it just about impossible to safely start the school year clustered in buildings.

"There is different research coming out every day about at what age children can transit the virus, so we err on the side of caution," said Connelly.

Multiple members of the Cumberland County Board of Education agreed that remote learning is necessary for the start of the school year.

"It's not right for Cumberland County ... not right now (to return to in-person learning)," one board member said.

A survey delivered to Cumberland County families on July 16 asked parents how they felt about Plan B and Plan C.

Officials said, as of Tuesday, 56.7% of parents are leaning toward all-virtual learning, while 43.3% prefer a blended model. The gap between the two options has increased every day, officials said, with more parents asking for remote learning due to increasing coronavirus numbers in the county and the state.

Connelly said the district has been overwhelmed with calls and emails from parents, teachers and staff worried about starting the year in Plan B.

Connelly added the county will work hard to provide a high-quality learning experience for every child.

"We want everyone to take learning seriously," he said. "I feel this is necessary to ensure the health and safety of students and staff."

Resources for students and families

School shopping wasn't on Jonathan Daniels mind, but the vote on whether children should start the school year at home was.

He said the school board made the right choice in starting with remote learning because of COVID-19.

"That works out to make sure everybody's healthy until they can get this under control," he said.

Niki Hudson agreed. She said there was no way she was sending her son who has asthma to school, not only for his safety, but his teacher's safety as well.

"He already had elderly teachers, so there were teachers at risk, But not just the elderly, but they have other health problems that you don't know about," she said.

Since virtual, at-home learning isn't an option for families that don't have computers or internet access, the school district is taking steps to make sure everyone has access to the online syllabus.

Dr. Connelly said his staff ordered 10,000 additional computers and Internet hot spots. The system is also making plans to serve remote breakfast and lunch, all to make parents like Jonathan Daniels get the school day started off right.

"They wake up, they do their school work. They have an allotted time for lunch, and then back to school. Then at 3 0'clock they're done," said Daniels.

Eighty school buses will be connected to WiFi and driven into communities so students can access the internet from home, and schools will also provide places for students to access the web.

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