Wake County pivots to remote-only learning to start new school year

Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) officials on Tuesday approved a modified Plan B school reopening plan under which all students will begin the school year learning remotely.

Under Plan B Transition, as it is called by WCPSS officials, Pre-K students and special education students in regional programs could start in-person learning Sept. 8.

All other students will return to in-person instruction as “soon as practical” based on community metrics for COVID-19 infections and other key data.

Gov. Roy Cooper has directed districts to reopen under Plan B, which is a mix of in-person instruction and remote learning.

Cooper also gave local education leaders the option to reopen under Plan C, which is remote learning only.

He reiterated Tuesday that districts should choose the option best for their community.

“This is a difficult time for parents and students,” Cooper said. “It’s a tough time for teachers and staff as they’re struggling with the best way to do this. There’s no easy answer to all of this but I do think we have a good plan in place with both Plan B and Plan C that school districts can choose from.”

Plan A, the least restrictive of the three plans, was not on the table due to high number of coronavirus infections in the state. It calls for schools to fully reopen with daily temperature and screening checks before students and staff members entered buildings.

WCPSS official also reported Tuesday that nearly half — 78,792  of 160,000 — of the district’s students have enrolled in a new virtual academy created to provide remote instruction to students whose parents are afraid to send them to school for in-person instruction before a vaccine is developed for the coronavirus.

Students who enroll in the virtual academy must commit to remain there through the first half of the school year. Those attending schools under Plan B Transition will be able to quickly move to in-person instruction when it’s safe to do so.

“Online learning in Plan B Transition will provide the opportunity for students to move back to in-person instruction as soon as it’s safe and practicable, whether it be in Plan B Transition or in Plan A,” said Drew Cook, the WCPSS assistant superintendent for academics.

The state’s largest school system with more than 160,000 students joins a growing list of districts that will at least begin the new school year with all students learning remotely.

Teachers across the state have expressed concern about returning to in-person instruction before the coronavirus is under control.

Their reluctance to return to classrooms and rising infections have guided the decision of districts choosing to provide remote only instruction upon reopening.

Cumberland County Schools announced Tuesday that it will provide remote-only instruction through Sept. 25.

“All schools will begin operating under Plan B (Blended-Remote and Face-to-Face Learning), beginning no earlier than September 28, 2020, provided the director of the Cumberland County Department of Public Health, Dr. Jennifer Green, confirms that COVID-19 conditions have improved sufficiently in Cumberland County such that Plan B can be safely implemented,” officials said in a statement posted on the district’s website.

Meanwhile, as state education leaders and local school districts grapple with tough school reopening decisions, Senate Leader Phil Berger urged parents to leave the state’s public schools.

He contends the state’s public schools are “failing the very students” they’re supposed to help.

“At-risk kids may be out of school from March 2020 through September 2021 — many of them don’t have a chance of catching up,” Berger wrote.

Beger added: “Meanwhile, children from well-off families can learn in-person at private school. I urge concerned parents to take advantage of the Opportunity Scholarship program so their kids can get the same private school education as other children.”


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