Some Triad parents push for virtual school options as COVID case numbers rise
GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Several parents in Guilford County say they’ve asked for virtual academy options months after the initial deadline as COVID-19 cases rise in the state.
A spokesperson for Guilford County Schools says the deadline passed in March. Parents say at the time they felt more comfortable with in-person learning as cases started to decline.
Meredith Smith has a fifth grade student at Morehead Elementary. She dropped her off at her first day Monday, but has reservations.
“Nervous, very nervous,” she said. “It’s scary, we’re not sure what’s going to happen.”
Meredith’s daughter Lilly is too young to be vaccinated. The Greensboro mom watched case numbers go up over the course of the summer, and began doubting her decision in mid-July.
“We started to think about, things are not going well, and it just continued to get worse,” Smith said.
Another parent told FOX8 they’ve been reaching out to the district hoping to get some kind of consideration for their student with special needs, who has difficulties wearing a mask.
A spokesperson for Guilford County Schools said the March deadline was based on teacher allocations.
“It’s definitely a lot of frustration, I feel like there are enough parents that would choose the virtual option,” Smith said. “I feel like there would be enough parents to do a class per grade that stayed virtual.”
The district has a mask requirement for staff and students, but Smith isn’t hopeful it will prevent outbreaks.
“My feeling is there will be cases in her class and they will have to quarantine, and I’m not sure I’ll send her back when that happens. We’re going to wait and see when that happens,” she said.
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools is considering transfers to a virtual academy on a case-by-case basis, but space is limited.
Surry County’s online magnet school has reopened applications for the first 10 days of school.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Guilford County Schools (GCS) offers two, tuition-free virtual schools.
Guilford eLearning Virtual Academy is housed at Hunter Elementary School’s location and serves grades K-5. Guilford eLearning University Prep serves grades 6-8 and is housed at Jackson Middle School’s location. Each school has a principal, counselors, staff and teachers skilled in online learning.
Registration takes place during the magnet application period.
The virtual schools allow students who thrive online, need a more personalized approach to learning, or those who desire a more flexible learning environment continue to receive a quality education.
“The key change will be in the instructional strategies and learning environment that students experience,” said Eboni Camille Chillis, interim chief innovation officer. Students will have assigned teachers and will experience live and group instruction online. Students will also have in-person check-ins with their teachers and other school personnel.
According to a 2019 Forbes report many school districts and states across the country are expanding online learning options for students. More than 2.7 million students across 30 states were registered in some form of online learning prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and several countries have placed their entire K-12 curriculum online.
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An inside look at Guilford County Schools Virtual Academies
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Registration for Guilford County School's virtual academies is officially closed. The two online schools are the only option for kids who want to continue remote learning when students return to classrooms.
"We are at home," Lysni Ingram and Kaitlyn Bacon proclaimed in unison on a Zoom call. Both are familiar with virtual communication, they're teaching from classrooms inside of their homes as part of Guilford County Schools all-new virtual academies.
Ingram Teaches STEM and Bacon teaches fourth grade. Both use live and pre-recorded lessons to deliver the same curriculum taught in GCS schools.
"They're getting the same thing they get in our classrooms in a brick and mortar school and we were all brick and mortar teachers up until this point," Bacon said.
At the start of the year all students learned online. If parents wanted their kids to continue with remote learning they had to enroll them in one of two virtual academies. That meant transferring out of their original school for at least the remainder of the semester, if not the year.
"We are not just some foreign virtual school we are a GCS school and we develop those relationships and with us being virtual were even more intentional with you know developing those relationships," Ingram said.
Students can complete the 15 to 30 hours of school work each week at their own pace and on their own time. Both Ingram and Bacon say the feedback from students and parents has been overwhelmingly positive and they feel like everyone is more engaged.
"It's funny with middle schoolers because they don't always come right out and say, 'Oh, I like this lesson,'" Ingram said. "I know I'm doing a good job if every time we have a life lesson and their cameras on I'm like, 'oh they want me to see them yay we're having fun.'"
Aside from tech issues, both teachers think the virtual academy is already a well-oiled machine.
"One thing that's been thrown around a lot about the virtual school is building this plane as we fly it," Ingram said. "But we don't see it as that, I believe we are a jet and we are taking off into the future of education and every day we are soaring higher and higher ."
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