WCPSS parents consider options with Virtual Academy registration closed

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Parents, exasperated with balancing educating their children and keeping them safe in a pandemic, are considering their options since the state's largest school district is short on teachers to staff its virtual learning program.

The Wake County Public School System's Virtual Academy is at capacity and the district is no longer accepting admissions or transfers.

During this week's school board meeting, staff said there was a 19 percent vacancy rate in staffing the Virtual Academy.

Adriana de Souza e Silva has two students set to begin the school year at Penny Road Elementary in Cary on Monday, but she's already thinking about the day she has to pull them out.

"I think with other parents that I talk to they're all kind of hopeful in that sense, well maybe this is all gonna work out, maybe it's gonna be ok," she said. "But you don't want your child to be the first one infected."

de Souza e Silva has already researched what it would take to get a homeschool license and unenroll her children from WCPSS.

The mom who already has a full-time job said she's never homeschooled before, but with her children home all last school year, she learned a lot about what it takes; the only problem would be finding the time to take on the other full-time job of educating her children.

de Souza e Silva said when Virtual Academy enrollment was open this past spring, COVID case numbers were down; she and her husband decided to enroll their children for in-person classes.

"There was a disclaimer saying if the pandemic surges again we're gonna reconsider registration in the Virtual Academy and that's what gave us the peace of mind," she said.

Jim Martin, a member of the WCPSS Board of Education, implored staff to design and communicate a contingency plan in the event COVID cases surge.

"There is no easy answer here, but I do think as a system we owe to the community to be clear what are we using to define a surge that says we've got to take some more extreme action, if we could reopen virtual at all," he said. "I understand the staffing issues, so this is non-trivial."

Adriana de Souza e Silva also understands the problem is complex, but said with the delta variant spreading and unvaccinated children heading into the classroom, she had hoped for more options and safety protocols extending beyond mask mandates.

"I was hoping that if it gets to a critical point that the school system would realize that they are putting the kids' health and staff and teachers' health in danger," she said.
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