Magellan Charter School will begin school year under 'blended' learning model

The Magellan Charter School in north Raleigh first opened in 1997, but school leaders have never faced a back-to-school challenge like the one they are now.

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Renee Chou
, WRAL anchor/reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — The Magellan Charter School in Raleigh first opened in 1997, but school leaders have never faced a back-to-school challenge like the one they are now.

To limit the spread of coronavirus, the school is doing "blended learning," so students will do some of their learning online at home and some of their learning in the classroom.

This is a bit different from Wake County Public Schools' decision -- where students will be starting school online for the first couple weeks.

Charter schools in North Carolina are free of many regulations that govern district schools and are held accountable through the state. Each charter school has to present a remote learning plan to the state Department of Public Instruction.

Magellan School administrator Mary Griffin said that her charter school is facing some struggles reopening under a hybrid model.

Among parents of third and fourth graders, close to 20% said they wanted "remote-only" classes.

"We ran into a great deal of capacity issues," Griffin said. "Not having as many resources at our fingertips and a smaller staff, being able to meet the needs of all the children in a blended model just became a daunting task."

In the school’s blended model, third and fourth graders attend classes inside the school five days a week. However, due to capacity and staffing issues, students are split into two groups. Half of the students attend in the morning, from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m.

Griffin says the older students, fifth through eighth grade, start the year from home with "live" online classes.

"The students will be online with their teachers for a full hour each day for each subject area," Griffin explained, saying teachers will remain in contact with students while they are online.

Griffin said one advantage of being a charter school is the opportunity to be more creative with solutions. The school only educates students in grades 3-8.

"It’s a little unusual. We called it "Ele-Middle," Griffin said.

For third and fourth graders, school leaders focused on a smoother transition as they get to know their new teachers in a classroom setting.

The plan came about after meetings and input from school staff, teachers and parents. Though not everyone agreed on the methods, they all agreed on the goal.

"Everybody wants to get children back into school as soon as we can and do that safely," Griffin said.

As students and teachers leave the building, a cleaning and sanitizing effort takes place from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. That’s when the second group of students arrive for afternoon classes until 4 p.m.

That may change as the school reassesses the approach for different grade levels every month.

"Our goal is to get our fifth through eighth graders into the blended model as soon as we can do that safely," Griffin said.

She says her staff and teachers still have plenty of loose ends to tie up before classes start.


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