Wake County Schools

Parents pleased Wake high school students will soon be back in school

Posted November 18, 2020 6:07 p.m. EST
Updated November 18, 2020 8:34 p.m. EST

— After more than nine months out of school because of the coronavirus pandemic, Wake County high school students will be back in class in January.

The school board voted 7-1 on Tuesday in favor of a plan for the second semester of the 2020-21 school year that includes full-time in-person instruction for elementary school students and rotations of one week in class and two weeks of remote learning for middle and high school students.

Elementary schools resumed full-time in-person instruction this week after several weeks in rotation schedule, while middle schools started a three-week rotation for students last week.

"When you look at the last few weeks for our elementary schools, the last week for our middle schools, we have opened with relative success," school board Chairman Keith Sutton said.

That success led the board to expand in-person instruction to high school students, who have been taking all classes online since the pandemic began in March.

"We want them in school. I don’t even think the three-week rotation is sufficient for their needs," said Kris Lee, whose son, Glenn, attends Apex High School.

"He does his best academic work when he is in a live group setting. He needs that live in-person support from his teachers, friends and coaches," Kris Lee said.

Teenagers are twice as likely to contract coronavirus as younger children, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But Kris Lee said the mental health toll on students after months of remote learning is worse that the risk of catching the virus.

"I feel like the social and emotional negative impacts that students are facing far outweighs the risk of them getting COVID," she said. "The suicide rate is increasing, anxiety is increasing for teens. Let’s not forget about the academic learning – A students are becoming even B or C students."

District officials are still putting the focus on pandemic safety, however.

"If infection rates rise, then I think it’s absolutely critical that all decisions are re-evaluated," school board member Jim Martin said.

Martin was the lone board member who voted against the second semester plan, but he said Wednesday that he has no problems bringing high school students back.

"The high school versus other schools was not separated out in the vote. I do believe, had it been separated out, I would’ve been able to support the high school rotation because that option maintains all three W’s," he said, referring to safety protocols of frequent hand washing, wearing masks and waiting 6 feet apart from others.

Martin said he doesn't believe those protocols will be followed in elementary schools with students there five days a week.

"The rotation allows you have the lower class size, which allows for the distancing," he said.

Classes also will be smaller because thousands of students will remain enrolled in the district's online-only Virtual Academy for the next semester.

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