In Wake County, public school students have been in all-virtual learning since the first day of school on Aug. 17.
The board approved a gradual reopening, which will bring some students back to the classroom in late October.
The board approved the following plan:
- Grades PreK-3 incorporate in-person learning beginning Oct. 26 on a three-week rotation (students learn two weeks online and one week in person).
- Grades 6-8 incorporate in-person learning in three week rotation starting Nov. 9
- Grades 4-5 would incorporate in-person learning in three-week rotation starting Nov. 16
- Grades 9-12 will remain in remote learning for the fall semester
- Elementary and K-12 special education programs could begin full-time in-person classes by Nov. 16.
Families who opted for all-virtual learning for the semester or the school year would keep learning from home. As of July, about half of the district's students were signed up for the Virtual Academy. In a survey sent to parents, about two-thirds of those enrolled in the Virtual Academy indicated they planned to stay online-only for the entire year.
Wake County Superintendent Cathy Moore said roughly half of teachers will have to provide both in-person and remote instruction at the same time, and in some cases, Virtual Academy courses as well. Moore said fourth and fifth grades needed to remain remote to help ease the workload for teachers who would simultaneously teach in-person, online and Virtual Academy.
Moore cited keeping grades 6-12 in remote learning because social distancing would not be possible. 81% of principals in a survey identified remaining remote for fall semester would be the most feasible option.
Moore said factors like social distancing and class size played a role in the decision making process.
"Review of survey feedback we got from people, the one area that was common across all of those -- the importance of bringing in youngest students for in-person instruction," she explained.
While some families are adapting to virtual learning, one Wake County board member told WRAL News other parents say learning from home is not working for their children.
Wake County School Board Chair Keith Sutton said he understands that families are divided when it comes to their preferences for learning during COVID-19.
Moore said bus drivers have already been practicing the routes approved for transportation under a plan that would rotate students in and out of the classroom.
All required and recommended personal protective equipment has also been received and distributed to schools, including face coverings, hand sanitizer, touchless thermometers and other PPE.
Students and teachers would be required to wear masks while attending in-person instruction.
If a student inadvertently doesn't wear a mask, staff will remind the student of proper protocol. The school system said when support and on-disciplinary intervention are not enough, students could face in-school or out-of-school suspension.
In a Sept. 15 meeting, Moore said a large majority of schools have more than half of staff on campus. Principals have been providing feedback to superintendents about how many staffers have been coming back into the building.
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