Durham charter school students lacking laptops, teacher adjusting to obstacle

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- A science teacher at a Durham charter school is trying to keep her students up-to-date, despite many lacking the technology to work from home.

Elizabeth Sewell, a fifth-grade science teacher at Research Triangle Charter Academy, has been struggling with the new world of education.

"I miss the actual classroom environment itself: the desk, the pencils, actually having one-on-one conversations with them," Sewell said

Sewell's been a part of the charter school for four years. Between three classes, she teaches about 75 students.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic pushing schools to go virtual, Sewell's noticed many of her kids don't have the technology available to keep up, saying around 25 percent lack the proper equipment.

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"A lot of my kids don't have access to the internet or only have one computer, and there's three or four of them in a household at a time," Sewell said.

It promoted the science teacher to focus on only reviewing the curriculum they covered in person, so these boys and girls aren't left trying to teach themselves.

While the elementary kids without laptops are given physical educational material, Sewell says it's tough to really teach new topics over the phone.

"At the same time, now we're behind. EOGs have already been canceled, so that doesn't matter anyways; but, they're still missing key units that they need when they go to middle school," Sewell said.

The charter school receives help from Durham Public Schools, along with information about how to deal with the pandemic. The school also provides meals to students Mondays through Fridays.

Sewell believes renting out their school laptops to their children could be a viable solution.

She's brought the matter forward to the Dean; however, no one's allowed in the building until a deep cleaning is completed, "So we're unable to get them the resources that they need".

To make ends meet, the teacher also works at Mystic Farm and Distillery in Durham, helping make hand sanitizer for the current pandemic on the weekends.

Sewell hopes they can address the laptop problem in the coming weeks.
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