Devices, attendance policy on the agenda for Wake County Schools board meeting

Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Attendance policy on the agenda for WCPSS board meeting
Attendance policy on the agenda for WCPSS board meeting

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Wake County Public School System officials met for a board meeting and work session on Tuesday.

Among the topics on those agendas was attendance and the purchase of 85,000 Chromebooks.

As far as attendance goes, some teachers have expressed concern that a student could be marked present even if they don't attend a live video class session. Board members on Tuesday discussed a potential policy change.

The North Carolina Department of Instruction has pushed students into two categories when it comes to attendance: Present on-site and present off-site.

The former is reserved for students who will be in a hybrid or blended environment. For all other students who will be attending school remotely for a specified amount of time, the present off-site category will be used. According to the DPI, "A student cannot be considered absent solely due to not logging into an online resource/lesson on a remote learning day. A student will be marked as "present-off-site" based on evidence of student engagement. A teacher who has a face to face interaction, e.g., virtual meeting or phone interaction, with a student on that current day can mark a student "present- off-site."

"It's kind of a loophole in the system at this point and once people see that, there will be certain situations where that policy is taken advantage of," Wake County educator Ayanna Thompson told ABC11 last week.

On the topic of online learning devices, the district hopes to have one device for every student by the beginning of the next school year.

That would help when there are snow days or hurricanes.

The district started the distribution of 46,000 Chromebooks and 14,000 hotspots Monday, on the first day of classes.

District officials said during a news conference Monday that they had already distributed 32,000 Chromebooks and 5,000 hotspots in the spring. Students were able to keep those devices. The device distribution that started this week are new requests.

Activate Good is recruiting and coordinating the volunteers. WakeEd Partnership helped get the word out about the need for volunteers.

"It is an opportunity for folks to volunteer, if you want to do something that is socially distanced and safe that will make an immediate impact on our public schools, then certainly helping with this device distribution," said Keith Poston, President of WakeEd Partnership. "It's not a technical issue. It's just really, sort of, hands on, filling these orders."

District officials said they hope to pass out the devices as quickly as possible but don't have a timeline for when the distribution will be completed. Parents are picking up the devices in smaller groups so they can socially distance.

Paige Williams, 8, is still waiting for her laptop. She's logging in for her remote learning at Fox Road Magnet Elementary in Raleigh by sharing her mom's computer.

"It's very frustrating for me because I'm also in school," said mother Geri Williams. "I'm working. I work remotely a lot."

Williams said they're still waiting for their notification from the district district about when they can pick up their device. The district has made it clear not all students would get their device on the first day of school.

"I feel like they should have done a better job of planning," she said. "I feel like this is poor leadership. I feel it's lack of preparation and it's poor planning."

In a news conference Monday, Marlo Gaddis, WCPSS Chief Technology Officer, was asked why the district didn't start the distribution sooner.

"We quickly shifted from Plan B to Plan C transition so previously we had been planning for in-person learning as well as at home learning so we had been building a different type of plan," she said. "So the shift, making sure the shift happened as well making sure that we had the needs of our students adequately gathered before we did that. The timing just happened to work out to be the 17th."