Wake schools to keep all students remote for first two weeks of January
Posted December 15, 2020 5:34 p.m. EST
Updated December 16, 2020 12:14 p.m. EST
Cary, N.C. — The Wake County Board of Education agreed on Tuesday with a staff recommendation that all students revert to remote-only learning to finish the fall semester.
All students will move to online learning from Jan. 4 until Jan. 15, when the semester ends.
Superintendent Cathy Moore said principals have reported a staffing shortage because of teachers being told to quarantine from possible coronavirus exposure. With so many teachers unable to report to school buildings and a shortage of substitutes, in-person learning is threatened.
"We're reaching a point where it's difficult for schools to ensure continuity," Moore told board members on Monday night.
"It gives us an opportunity to take a breath, pause and gear up for the return of students second semester," board Chairman Keith Sutton said. "This is not open-ended. It is a two-week period that will end Jan. 20. (We) fully expect to be back for second semester instruction as we have planned."
The current plan for spring semester is for prekindergarten through fifth grade to remain in full-time instruction. Sixth through eighth graders remain in three-week rotations, with one week in the classroom and two weeks remote learning. Ninth through twelfth grades would move from remote only to similar three-week rotations.
"The two-week, quarantine-like pause, the purpose of it, is so that we can be successful for the long term to maximize the chances that we will be successful for our high schoolers coming back," said board member Jim Martin.
"We need to make sure we're being careful in the short term so that we can have success for the long term," he added.
Preliminary data show fewer students opted to remain in the Virtual Academy for spring semester. For fall semester, 85,550 students were enrolled. That number dropped to 77,284 for spring. That’s about 48 percent of a total student body of 161,907.
District leaders are also trying to bolster contact-tracing efforts by adding staff, but they noted there has not been evidence of the virus spreading within schools. Instead, leaders said virus spread in the community is impacting staff.
High schoolers, who have yet to receive any form of in-person instruction since the school year began, are asking why it's OK for them to play sports but continue with online learning after the break.
"I've been stuck at home a lot," said Nate Johnson, a senior at Apex Friendship High School. "It's not ideal for a lot of the classes I'm trying to learn for, the subjects I'm trying to learn."
"I find that it's a little odd, considering that we have indoor sports going on right now," said Ryan Steffanus, a Middle Creek High School senior.
A district spokeswoman said sports are a different scenario and require a different level of resources to prevent an outbreak.
Because cross-country is outdoors and women's volleyball has a small number of participants, school leaders said these small populations are easier to manage.
While workouts and tryouts for others sports, like football, are underway, students are limited with how many people can be in a group.