Wake County Schools set to discuss reopening plans on Tuesday; neighboring districts opt to begin online-only

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The Wake County School Board is set to discuss plans Tuesday for this upcoming school year.

It comes following announcements from several neighboring districts to begin the school year with online-only learning. Durham and Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools will be online-only for the first nine weeks, while Orange County schools will be online-only for the first four weeks.

In a statement, Cumberland County Schools Associate Superintendent Lindsay Whitley announced Friday that Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr. recommends beginning the school year with Plan C -- remote instruction only. The Board plans to discuss the matter during a special meeting on Tuesday, July 21.

Wake School Board Chair Keith Sutton tells ABC11 he is 'strongly considering' Option C, remote-only learning.

RELATED: Wake Schools board chair 'strongly considering' online learning for upcoming school year

"We've already opted for the virtual academy," said Christie Meyers, a mother of a rising fifth-grader and first-grader in Wake County schools.

As of Friday, nearly 45,000 students have opted to participate in the Wake County Virtual Academy. Despite her decision to do, Meyers supports Plan B - blended instruction of in-person and online learning.

"We're able to stay home with the kids. For the people that are in healthcare or just other jobs that they don't have that option, it would be nice to send them partly to school," explained Meyers.

She added part of the reason she opted for the Virtual Academy for children was to open in-class spots for students whose parents may not be able to stay home during the day.

Meyers does recognize the value of in-person instruction, and has already arranged for a private teacher to work with her son and two other fifth grade students in conjunction with online learning.

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"Just someone if they need help with homework to assist them. Because at least my kids learn better from someone else than they do from me and my husband," said Meyers, who added she is exploring a similar possibility for her first-grader.

The debate over safety measures balanced against the importance of in-class instruction is taking place in districts across the country.

"These are incredibly difficult choices to make. As a dad myself, no one wants to hear 'well there's a very low percentage chance that you're kids going to get sick.' Well, I mean what's low enough,'" said Keith Poston, president of the non-profit WakeEd Partnership.

Poston added schools have to take a long-term view of the decision.

"The school systems and the public schools want to be back. That is where the ideal situation is a great teacher in front of a group of kids, and they're moving forward. But we want to make sure we do it safely. And we also don't want to do it where you immediately start school back and have outbreaks so you have a health crisis there and you have to shut it all down. So you kind of lose. And so I think there may be some thinking amongst school leaders, 'maybe we should ease into this. Let's get back, let's (get) our students involved, let's do remote learning better than we did it in the Spring. And then get to a point where we want to start moving back towards Plan B and ultimately to Plan A, we have a little more time to kind of build toward it," said Poston.

He believes that districts are better equipped for online learning than they were in the Spring, citing greater familiarity with the process and better preparation.

"This is all our first pandemic. And it's not where anybody wants to be, certainly not teachers, not school leaders, not the school district, families. We want to be able to go back to school, we want everything to go back to normal. But the reality on the ground is we're just not there yet," said Poston.

If the Wake County School Board does delay Plan B, they will open another registration for the Virtual academy.
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