Back to school: Districts welcome back students for unique fall semester marred by COVID-19

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Class during COVID-19: Schools work to smooth transition into 2020-21 school year
Class during COVID-19: Schools work to smooth transition into 2020-21 school yearCumberland County teacher says first of school went great with some set backs

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- A school year like no other began in many districts across North Carolina on Monday, including the largest district: Wake County Public School System.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still causing illness and death in America, many school districts are starting the year with virtual-only classes.

It started with a bit of a hiccup, with a technical glitch in the computer system that runs some of the online portals used by school districts across North Carolina.

NCEdCloud is the system used by students and teachers to access online learning tools such as PowerSchool and Canvas.

The technical glitch Monday made it difficult for some students and teachers to log in. It was resolved by 11:30 a.m.

SEE ALSO: Everything you need to know about the return to school in 2020


WCPSS is still working to get laptops to any student who needs them. The district received more than 38,000 requests for devices.

PHOTOS: Send us your back-to-school photos for this unique year

Every family's situation is different, that's why many non-profits in Wake County are creating socially distanced pods, giving working parents a place to allow their children to attend virtual classes if they cannot do so at home.

Wake County Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, and Marbles Museum are a few locations that have worked with WCPSS to create this learning centers.

"We want them to feel that they made the right decision and they feel safe. I expect that after we get going and more parents hear about the program it's only going to grow," WakeEd Partnership President Keith Poston said.

Each of those socially distanced learning areas are priced differently, but they all range between $25-100 a week. However Poston said they are working to get funding and plan to not turn away any family who needs help.

WATCH: WCPSS Superintendent on the start of classes


Durham students and teachers are also treating these first several days of school as an orientation period.

DPS leaders said the first steps are all about relationship building, wellness and orientation to online tools like Zoom.

"A lot of people are anxious and this is new for a whole lot of people. But also, be excited. Because our teachers and our school, we are so excited to just be in contact, and be with our students again in some form or fashion," Teaching and Learning Coach Justine Daniel said.

WATCH: DPS Superintendent on the start of classes


13-year-old Serenity McGill was able to log in for her first day of remote classes at Anne Chestnutt Middle School in Cumberland County Schools.

But parent Tonia McGill says it took Serenity a long time to log into NCEdCloud, a portal used by school districts across the state to access online learning tools such as PowerSchool and Canvas. That's because of a glitch in the system Monday morning.

"It was very frustrating because I don't have an IT certification, but I have somewhat of an IT background," McGill said. "When I couldn't get it to work I was like ya, this is bigger than me."

She said she understands that virtual learning is a new experience for everybody.

"We're going to pray for the best and we're going to just work out the kinks as they come," McGill said.

A Cumberland County Schools spokesman said they use Google Meet so teachers can interact with students so the NCEdCloud issue shouldn't have impacted students' instruction.

He said teachers will begin using Canvas by Aug. 31 and parent accounts will be available on Aug.31, or once courses are published. He also said more information about Canvas will be shared with students and parents during the first two weeks of school.

Parents and students picked up remote learning tools Friday to help with the transition to the start of online learning.

As many as 80 school buses will be delivering WiFi access to key areas of the district as a part of Operation Smooth Start. That way every student will be ready for the first day of school.

The range of each school bus hot spot is about the size of a football field.

Donna Wiles, a math teacher at Reid Ross Classical High School, told ABC11's Michael Lozano her first day of school went great, with only a few minor set backs.

"Of course, there were some technical issues, but I was ready for that. I expected with thousands of students and teachers getting online," Wiles said.

Wiles, a longtime teacher at Cumberland County Schools, was outspoken in July about starting the school year online. She's happy with the school district's decision to move to plan C, saying it takes a great deal of weight off a teacher's shoulders.

"I didn't have to worry about whether somebody sanitized their hands or that their desk was clean. Um, everybody, uh, just focused on learning," Wiles said.

Wiles told ABC11 that teachers are working together to help those who are a little less tech savvy, creating Facebook groups and finding other ways to communicate.

If COVID-19 remains a major concern, come Sept. 25, Wiles and other teachers believe they should remain online. All of them are eager to make these unique circumstances work.

"We're not going to let teachers fail, we're not going to let students fail. We're going to succeed, no matter what it takes," Wiles said.


Four area school districts opted to start the 2020-21 school year in Plan B, meaning they have a mix of in-person and online learning.

Those school districts are in Hoke, Moore, Person and Wayne counties.

All of those districts will have students divided into two groups, with each group doing 2 days of learning in the classroom and three days of remote learning per week.