Schools all across the country closed their doors to students and transitioned to remote learning over a year ago.
For over 6 months, students learned virtually. As Covid-19 infection rates trended down and vaccinations increased, approximately half of the students in Wake county returned to the classroom when given the option. However, many do not feel it is safe enough to return to in-person learning and are continuing to learn virtually.
In an effort to accommodate families who do not feel comfortable sending their children back to school yet, the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) plans to offer Virtual Academy for the next school year.
“We acknowledge… that some families may not be comfortable with in-person instruction as we begin the 2021-2022 school year in July and August. This is one reason why WCPSS will provide a Virtual Academy program for grades K-12, along with a virtual option for Pre-K, for next school year, pending final approval by the school board,” wrote WCPSS in a letter to families.
The registration window for next year’s Virtual Academy will begin no sooner than April 22 and will be open for around 10 days.
Some students appreciate the option of virtual learning next school year while others do not see its need.
Anderson Fox, a sophomore at Leesville, thinks offering Virtual Academy next year is a good idea. “Many students learn differently, and providing this opportunity allows students who work well virtually to thrive. For many, virtual school has been a healthy change and I’m happy it is being offered for those who want it,” wrote Fox via text.
Fox chose to continue virtual learning this year when WCPSS offered in-person classes. She feels that virtual learning is a valuable experience.
“I definitely struggled being at home and alone so much, however… I discovered what it was like to work using my own time management, more independence, and without much influence from others,” wrote Fox.
Haley Royal, also a sophomore at Leesville, has the opposite opinion. “Having gone through virtual schooling earlier this year, and dealing with the consequences of virtual learning, I do not think Virtual Academy should be offered next year,” wrote Royal via text.
Royal chose to return to in-person instruction as soon as WCPSS offered it. She feels that the detrimental effects of virtual learning on students outweigh the positive effects.
“For a lot of students being online decreased motivation, lessened productivity, and overall made their quality of work worse. I find that learning online has done nothing good for our education but rather weakens our minds,” wrote Royal.
It is hard to tell whether either of these observations of virtual learning will prove true the second time WCPSS offers virtual learning as an alternative to in-person instruction, but it is important to note the differences in Virtual Academy for next school year.
Virtual Academy Details
WCPSS plans to structure next school year’s Virtual Academy to separate virtual and in-person instruction. Teachers will no longer teach a mixed class of students both in-person and remote.
Students must commit to attending for the entire school year to avoid students changing teachers and sharing teachers with those attending in person.
Families signing up for this option must agree to a Statement of Understanding outlining student attendance and engagement expectations.
WCPSS cautions that though they will offer a virtual option for grades PreK-3, they do not recommend it. “Certainly safety concerns weigh heavily on parents’ minds, but the development of academic, social and emotional learning skills needed for this age group is best taught in person,” WCPSS wrote.
Students in Virtual Academy will be able to participate in extracurricular activities at their school, but transportation will not be provided.
Virtual Academy students will also follow their own school calendar. Those students in multi-track year-round schools will follow the Track 4 calendar.
Students will still have access to all core classes but only certain electives. A course will only be offered if enough students register, a teacher is available, and it is not dependent on hands-on learning experiences.
WCPSS will not offer Virtual Academy in Early Colleges, Leadership Academies, Alternative Schools, Crossroads Flex High School, and SCORE Academy.
Hope for In-Person
Although WCPSS plans to offer Virtual Academy next school year, they acknowledge that in-person learning is ideal, and recommended if possible.
Even with their difference of opinion, both Fox and Royal recognize the benefits of in-person instruction and feel safe enough to return to school next year.
“Personally, I will not be signing up [for Virtual Academy next school year]. The social and in-person aspect of school works better for me individually,” wrote Fox. “This fall, my parents and I are finally at a point where we feel comfortable returning to an in-person environment.”
“If the vaccines are being distributed at the rate that they are, I am hopeful that by the beginning of the next school year it will be safe enough for all of us to transition to normal school like always,” wrote Royal.