Wake County Schools

WCPSS leaders recommend returning all students to remote learning

Posted December 10, 2020 10:18 p.m. EST
Updated December 15, 2020 11:23 a.m. EST

— Wake County Public School System leaders recommended on Monday afternoon to the Wake County Board of Education that all students return to remote learning because of staffing issues.

Superintendent Cathy Moore said principals have been reporting a staffing shortage because of teachers being told to quarantine because of possible coronavirus exposure and recommended all students move to remote learning from Jan. 4-15.

"It gives us an opportunity to take a breath," said Board Chairman Keith Sutton.

In October, during the first week of in-person learning, 194 absences for teachers needing substitutes was reported. During that week, there was 84.7% sub availability. Last week, 494 absences were reported and sub availability had dropped to 64%.

"We're reaching a point where it's difficult for for schools to ensure continuity," Moore explained to board members.

Sutton said the proposal gives the school district a chance to prepare for a surge in cases over the holiday break.

"This pause helps us assess and see where things are going, to make any changes and respond to any change that we see to those numbers," he explained.

Board members will vote Tuesday during a regular-scheduled board meeting on returning all students to remote learning.

Currently, elementary and middle school students are back on campus. According to Sutton, the current plan for spring semester calls for high school students to move to a mix of in-person and remote learning in mid-January.

WCPSS reported 80 new coronavirus cases this week, according to its coronavirus dashboard. The district has not released how many staff are in quarantine on its coronavirus dashboard.

More than half of the reported cases in the past week are among staff, the dashboard shows.

Forty-seven staff members and 33 students tested positive from Dec. 3 to Dec. 9. The week before, the district reported 68 coronavirus cases.

Most of the cases are across multiple different schools in the district, according to the dashboard. The state shows that no active clusters were reported in the Wake County Public School System.

Children can contract coronavirus, but health experts say they are more likely to only experience mild symptoms. Children are also less likely to spread the virus, health experts said. Teachers and staff pose a bigger risk of spreading coronavirus than other students, according to research.

Parents and educators expressed mixed opinions about the possibility to return to remote learning.

"One of the things we have said from the beginning is that remote learning is safest because nobody is, for prolonged periods of time, mingling with people they do not live with. When we cannot be in remote [learning] then we need to make sure we have safety measures in place that everyone is strictly adhering to," said Kristin Beller, with Wake County Association of Educators.

Kelly Mann, a WCPSS parent, spent months pushing the district to open for in-person learning. She said that the school building is where students should be.

"This should not be about varying opinions. This should not be about I want this and so-and-so wants this. This is very straightforward," Mann said. "The science, the facts and the data are in support of re-opening schools and keeping schools open and not shutting them down."

From Nov. 24 to Dec. 4, Wake County has seen an increase in coronavirus cases. The state department of health placed the county under an "orange zone," signaling that there is significant community spread. More than 6% of tests across the county have come back positive over the 2-week period.

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