Many traditional calendar central North Carolina students return to class Monday amid pandemic

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Many central North Carolina students are returning to class Monday; however, there are many anxieties for in-person learning as COVID-19 cases are trending up.

There are many changes this year because of the pandemic. Here's a full breakdown of some of the differences your child may experience this semester.

WAKE COUNTY


There are nearly 162,000 students enrolled in the Wake County Public School System this year, with about 116,000 traditional calendar students starting classes Monday.

Of those, nearly 11,000 students will be enrolled in the Virtual Academy. This comes at a time when some parents are looking to pull their kids out of in-person learning but are left with nowhere to go because the Virtual Academy enrollment is closed.

Could the system move back to an all-remote learning system?

"Moving back to Plan C (all remote) would require state legislation or an order from the governor," said Wake County Schools spokesperson Lisa Luten. "Current law restricts the number of students who can participate in remote learning."

Some parents are OK with that.

"In-person is always going to be our top choice," said Kellee Lewis, parent to a 7-year-old daughter. "We've really been happy with the way the school district has handled all of this. We trust their decisions on that. That's been our focus."

Lewis said she knows the pandemic and the disruption it caused is likely to linger.

"This isn't going away any time soon," she said. "We're trying to figure out how to live with COVID rather than wait for the fix."

It's a "tricky situation" said a parent named Troy, who did not wish to disclose his last name.

"If they do it the way they're doing it, they're in trouble. And if they do it the other way, they're in trouble. It's a no-win situation," said Troy, the father of a 7-year-old boy. "I don't like it. But you try and do what you can."

Students must wear masks inside the school and on the bus. They're optional outside.

The district recognizes it's been a tough year and saying it'll provide social and emotional support for students that need it.

Q&A: What's different this school year? Wake superintendent explains
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WCPSS Superintendent Cathy Moore describes changes as school year begins



Students at Willow Spring High School in Fuquay-Varina started a new school year.

"I like in person better because you get to ask more questions. Online you couldn't really ask that much questions," student Serenity Aikens said.

Serenity's mom is a little nervous though, about COVID-19.

"That's what we're afraid of so that's why I told her keep a few masks in her book bag and make sure you do everything like the COVID rule says, washing hands," Lakia Harvey said.

"This is our first year so last school year our facility was a swing space for Fuquay Varina High School. So for many of our students, this will be the first time in the building for our incoming ninth grade," Willow Spring High Principal Wade Martin said.

Martin said their average class size is about 30 students.

ABC11 asked district superintendent Cathy Moore if they'll be able to physically distance in classrooms of that size.

"What the guidelines tell us now in the toolkit is that there is not a requirement for a distance for social distancing but social distancing to the extent possible so we do want to spread kids out as much as possible whatever spaces they are in," said Superintendent Moore.

READ ABOUT MORE CHANGES HERE

Martin said they have about 850 students enrolled for in-person instruction and about 35 students signed up in the district's Virtual Academy.

Tracy Revels has been homeschooling for the past four years. One of her children is now going to Willow Spring High.

"I did tear up just like I did when I dropped him off at kindergarten but I know he's going to have a wonderful day. No matter how old they are I think they're always your babies," Revels said.



At Wakefield Middle School, Principal Alison Cleveland said the focus will be on building relationships.

"We will spend a lot of time this first week focusing on peer-to-peer relationships," Cleveland said. "Building those relationships within the classroom, making it feel safe. And really re-learning how to do school again."

The goal is to have students "comfortable and prepared for learning." as they start to get into the academic content next week.

Catherine Delaney, a drama/dance teacher, added that she felt "like, through the arts, that's a great way for kids to discover who they are and figure out where they're heading."

Wake County elementary and middle school students will when possible, only be around a specific group of children a day. They will have seating charts that will help determine how students are grouped when walking to the cafeteria and in the classroom.

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What changes are in place for this new school year? Gloria Rodriguez reports from Raleigh.



CUMBERLAND COUNTY


About 50,000 Cumberland County Schools students returned to the classroom Monday morning.



Many safeguards remain in place including masks, physical distancing and hand sanitizer stations.



What's different this year?



Bus driver shortages and possible delays

As school systems face bus shortages, some routes will be "doubled up," where drivers have to build in extra time to pick up and drop off two separate groups of students.

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Here's everything you need to know about bus route changes this year. Anthony Wilson reports.



What happens if your child becomes sick this year?

Another change being when children sick with a non-COVID ailment can return to class.

FULL CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE

Last year, students who were sick for any reason (such as rash or earache) had to get a negative COVID-19 test or a doctor's diagnosis that it wasn't COVID. Now, that process will only be necessary if students are showing symptoms of COVID, such as a 100.4 fever or higher and sore throat.

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What do you do if your child gets sick this year at school? Tamara Scott reports



RELATED: Superintendents, doctors participate in Back to School: Preparing in a Pandemic townhall

Students who do not have COVID symptoms may return to school after they have gone 24 hours without a fever.

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ABC11's DeJuan Hoggard and Tamara Scott contributed.
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