Education

Wake school board votes to start school year online-only

Posted July 20, 2020 4:57 a.m. EDT
Updated July 22, 2020 7:36 a.m. EDT

— With coronavirus cases on the rise, more North Carolina counties are deciding to start the school year with online-only classes.

In a special-called meeting Tuesday afternoon, Wake school board members voted for all students to start the school year off virtually.

Superintendent Cathy Moore recommended what the district is calling ‘Plan B Transition.’ This means that all students will begin the school year online on Aug. 17. The first two weeks of school for students will focus on orientation, meet-and-greet opportunities and distributing supplies.

On Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., Johnston County school leaders will vote on what classes will look like when school starts in less than a month. WRAL has a list showing how each district plans to handle back-to-school.

Moore said the district is planning on prioritizing Pre-K and Special Education Regional Program students to return for in-person classes. The target start date for those students is Sept. 8.

Other students will transition to in-person classes as practical. Moore said returning students to in-person would be reliant on "the science and the resourcing," including COVID-19 trends and ability to get adequate PPE.

Since about half of Wake County’s 162,000 students have applied for the Virtual Academy, it could be possible to get other students back in the classroom sooner.

The initial application period for the Wake County Public School System's Virtual Academy closed on Monday, and nearly 79,000 students had applied, which is about 49% of the district's enrollment.

At the outset of the school year, teachers will offer a balance of activities for online and offline learning. This will include an average of two to three hours per day of live synchronous teaching. Students will have the flexibility over the course of a day, within a time schedule that meets the needs of the student and the family, to complete schoolwork. Schools will also have clearly defined expectations, office hours and support for students and families.

"We recognize that the bar must be raised for the 2020-2021 school year because in many ways the stakes that our students face are higher than they have ever been," said Drew Cook, the assistant superintendent for Wake County Schools.

WCPSS is planning to provide a device to every student, other than Pre-K students, by the start of school for online learning The district will launch a survey Wednesday to determine how many students need hardware to help them complete their work. That survey will be open for one week. Pickup locations for the device will be announced by next week.

Childcare for staff and families

All WCPSS staff with children in kindergarten through sixth grade will be provided a free childcare option. The childcare would begin as soon as the school year starts. The district is also working on helping families with childcare options at low rates or free. Community groups will also continue efforts to provide space, volunteers, employees and funds.

Food services

School districts are planning locations and times for food distribution for students. Student ID number will be required for meals as proof of enrollment, and adults will have to prove they are the parent/guardian if the student is not present.

Students eligible for free and reduced-price meals will continue receive those meals. Students not eligible will have to pay for meals.

Bus service and home delivery of meals will not continue when school resumes.

When students return for in-person classes, there will be Cafe Service -- which will allow students to dine in or to make selections and return to the classroom to eat -- Hallway 'Kiosk' Service and classroom delivery service.

What option should parents select?

Parents who want their child to be enrolled in an in-person class as soon as possible, should select Plan B Transition.

Those who want their child in online-only classes for the fall semester or the full year should select the Virtual Academy. The application window for the Virtual Academy will reopen on July 27 at 12:01 p.m. and will close July 29 at 5 p.m. Families who have already applied can also make changes in that window

Both options will offer instructional experience through similar live online instruction and other assigned daily learning opportunities.

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.