Durham considering shifting to all online classes to start school year
WRAL News has learned that Durham Public Schools administrators are strongly considering opening the school year with all classes taught online because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.Posted — Updated
District officials are expected to discuss the matter at a Thursday afternoon school board meeting.
Durham's "Plan B" mix of in-person and remote learning calls for having all high school students stay at home for online instruction, while elementary and middle school students would be taught in person, using the empty high schools to shift classes around for social distancing.
But Superintendent Pascal Mubenga said Tuesday he would consider input from worried teachers as district officials finalized the plans for the 2020-21 school year.
Wake students, parents choosing online academy
Durham's potential move comes as a wave of students in the Wake County Public School System are opting for online-only classes for the fall semester.
Millbrook High School Principal Dana King said about 12 percent of the school's enrollment have opted for online instruction, and she said she expects seniors will be the most likely students to attend classes in person.
The biggest challenge, she said, will be staffing the school as more teachers express concern about in-person instruction.
"They’re so stressed out about the thought of coming back into the building and being around kids," she said.
The Virtual Academy has no cap on enrollment, but students must commit to at least a full semester of online classes. Students in the Virtual Academy remain eligible for team sports and any extracurricular activities that might resume this fall and will also keep their spots in their current school and magnet programs.
"You can’t make a bad decision. You know your child best and you know your family values," King said. "My preference would be for kids to be here, because I can’t form relationships on the computer."
All core classes and most Advanced Placement and honors courses will be offered through the Virtual Academy, but some electives could be limited, officials said.
"That was not smooth. The quality differed from classroom to classroom," she said. "We are in a much better position today – much better. Teachers are feeling more confident, [and] the district has submitted and created better curriculum.”
Students an Individualized Education Program also are eligible for the Virtual Academy, but King said it could be difficult for them.
"Exceptional students are going to struggle, and particularly those who have been in self-contained classrooms where they have one teacher, there’s eight or nine students in the room and a couple of instructional assistants," she said. "They are there in a place that feels very predictable for them, and this new world is just going to seem a little more chaotic to them.”
"It breaks my heart that these are things beyond our control and the world has changed and we are never going back to the way we were," King said. "We’ll not stay here, but we’re never going back to that traditional school model."
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