WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- It was two weeks ago tonight, Wake County's school board approved its reopening plan to send grades K-3 back to in-person learning Oct. 26. Now, less than two weeks from the big day, not all families are circling that date on their calendars. Some parents are deciding to keep their kids home. They say it's too big a risk.
"I will not send my daughter back to school," said Rebecca Tisdale whose 6-year-old daughter, also named Rebecca, will not join her first grade classmates for in-person learning when Wake County reopens classrooms for the first time since last March.
"It's already not safe for the adults. Children are gonna be children -- they are touchy. They're gonna touch things. And my daughter suffers from chronic lung disease," Tisdale said. She added little Rebecca has been hospitalized twice with upper-respiratory infections.
Capricia Smith is keeping her daughters away from the classroom too.
"They will not go back this school year," Smith said. Her fifth and second grade girls attend PAVE Southeast Raleigh. It's a charter school, not public. But just like WCPSS, school leaders at PAVE are debating a plan to return kids back to the classroom.
Smith battles sickle-cell anemia -- so there's a concern one of the girls could bring home COVID-19. But she says she also worries that all the sanitizing and social distancing that schools are pledging to do -- will take away from the actual learning.
"With how much they are cleaning, how much are they really going to learn? And my second grader struggles with reading," Smith said.
As opposed to remote learning at home during this COVID-19 school year, Smith and Tisdale's daughters have been learning at The Lighthouse in east Raleigh.
Community advocate Diana Powell, along with community donors, funded this pandemic pod. It's nine students, first grade through twelfth in a safe learning space away from their homes with free high-speed Wi-Fi and peace of mind for their parents amid the pandemic.
"I understand what the school system is trying to do -- it's trying to send the kids back," Powell said. "But in my mind, I'm thinking, are they using these kids as guinea pigs?"
Tisdale believes the smaller setting and reduced class size is helping her daughter. "Actually it's been a blessing to me. I hate to say it, but she's actually doing better here than in public school," she said.
Smith has been volunteering at the pod all school year. She believes it's positive upgrade from the difficulties of learning at home.
"I do help tutor here -- so it's totally out of our home altogether," Smith said. "And they're mastering it."
It's important to note that if you haven't signed your child up for WCPSS's Virtual Academy, then they will be expected back when schools reopen.
Tisdale is currently going through a protocol of turning over documents from her daughter's doctor about her health risks. It's not a simple process -- but Tisdale says it's worth it.