A year into pandemic, how educating their children has changed for 2 Triangle families

Sunday marked one year since North Carolina schools switched to virtual learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While some schools are welcoming students back into the classroom, many continue to incorporate remote learning.

Some schools in our area are reporting an increase in failing grades, learning loss and poor attendance during the pandemic. In addition, there are reports of students feeling isolated because of learning from home.

RELATED: New statewide test results reveal grim reality of pandemic learning

Families have shifted their schedules to accommodate remote learning.

ABC11 caught up with two families a year after the pandemic started, to find out how their children's education has changed.

Wake County family choosing in-person instruction

There are five children in the Klieman household in Apex.

The family created a space in the home for each child to learn remotely when Wake County schools shut down last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

John Klieman, 6, had to learn how to use a computer. Now, the kindergartner is back in school daily.

"I like being in school, not virtual," said Klieman, who goes to Penny Road Elementary School in Cary. "Just because I actually get to be with my friends and teachers."

While nearly half of Wake County's students remain enrolled in the Virtual Academy, Hajnalka Klieman and her husband decided to send their children back for in-person instruction.

"I am very comfortable," Hajnalka Klieman said. "The infection levels have gotten lower."

The older children --Joseph and Thomas, who go to Apex High, and Peter, who goes to Ligon Magnet Middle School in Raleigh -- learn virtually at home for two weeks at a time and are in school for one week at a time. That's how middle and high school students enrolled in Wake County Public School System schools are getting in-person instruction.

Fifth-grader Erzsebet is going back to Penny Road Elementary daily starting this week after a decision by the district board.

"I'm very excited," Erzsebet said. "I'm very excited to be able to see all of my classmates because we only got to see one cohort and I'm very excited to see what the room's going to look like because we just had those few tables."

While the children are doing well with learning the content, Hajnalka Klieman admits it hasn't all been smooth sailing. There are times she's found her children watching YouTube videos instead of engaging in virtual learning. and she said children need to be self-motivated when learning remotely.

RELATED: Duke, UNC study finds low rates of in-school COVID transmission

"One of my children is struggling with mathematics, so I have a concern for him with how is that going to play, and I know that he wouldn't be in the position he's in now if he had been in the classroom every day," she said. "So, I do feel that he has some loss there."

Klieman said she's optimistic about her children's education.

"I feel very hopeful," Klieman said. "I'm so happy that we have these vaccines that are available and widely being taken advantage of."

Durham family decides to stick with remote learning

Whitney and Sumetrice Porter decided to keep their children in remote learning, even as Durham Public Schools welcomed back students into the classroom this week.

Evan, 8, has cerebral palsy and a compromised immune system.

"We decided for the safety of my children, and especially my child that is special needs that it was going to be best for our family that we kept him safe and not exposed to potential viruses that may come home," Eva's mother, Sumetrice Porter said.

Evan's sister, Kyndal, 13, is also doing all her schooling online, even band. Unlike some students struggling with virtual learning during the pandemic, Kyndal, who goes to Rogers-Herr Middle School in Durham, has thrived.

"I just think it's much better for me, and I work better and learn better online than in school," Kyndal said. "I know that's different for some people but for me, that's what works for me."

Her mom agreed.

"She's getting straight As, so she's doing much better," Sumetrice Porter said. "I would say she was an A-B student and now she's a straight-A student. So, she's doing much better, maybe she's able to focus more, has more time."

The Porter family has a nurse helping Evan with virtual learning.

"I will say that with a special needs kid, it's more difficult with the related services that he receives such as PT, OT and speech PT is really challenging, because it takes two of us to make that therapy work in the home, and I'm not sure if he's getting a whole lot out of that so those related services have been challenging for us over the last year," Sumetrice Porter said.

Porter said balancing their work schedules with their children's education can be challenging but that virtual learning works for them.

"We can really schedule our own personal work calendars around their schedules, if and when need be," Sumetrice Porter said. "So we probably are an anomaly from a family perspective that we've had the privilege and the opportunities to be able to do that as a family."

Districts reach out to students not engaging

Johnston County Public Schools has found new ways to help students not engaging in virtual learning.

"We have teachers who have met them at community locations," said Johnston County Public Schools social worker Anita Godwin. "We've had students and teachers meet outside and social distance. We've had packets created for the students so that they can do the work by hand if the computer and virtual thing just isn't working for them. So we try to do whatever works with them."

Watch and listen to Godwin's full interview:
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Johnston County Public Schools social worker Anita Godwin discusses the challenges of virtual learning with ABC11's Gloria Rodriguez.

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