School board votes to continue remote learning for first 9 weeks

School board votes to continue remote learning for first 9 weeks
July 18
17:34 2020

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WS/FCS) Board of Education voted to continue remote learning for all students for at least the first nine weeks of the 2020-21 school year.

On Tuesday, June 14, Gov. Roy Cooper announced schools could open under Plan B, which calls for schools to limit the maximum occupancy of all facilities and transportation vehicles to 50%, set up a screening process for every student and individual who enters the building, and require everyone, including students, to wear a masks. But he also left the door open for districts to go with Plan C and continue virtual learning.

After weighing their options, the local school board voted to continue virtual learning for the first nine weeks, at which time they will look at possibly moving to Plan B. When looking at the number of COVID-19 cases in Forsyth County, the number of employees who feel uneasy about returning to the classroom, and the lack of resources, Superintendent Dr. Angela Hairston said moving forward with Plan B would be putting students, teachers, and other staff at risk. “Plan B is full of challenges because of time and resources,” Hairston said during the special called virtual meeting on Friday, July 18.

“As a public school district, we’ve been tasked with trying to balance our number one priority – providing a safe, sound, quality education for all students – with the task of also protecting the safety, health, and wellness of the nearly 55,000 students and 8,000 employees and their respective families,” Hairston said. “As I sit here, virtually presenting to you a plan, I think about the status of our community that has one of the highest infection rates in the state. I see hard scientific data that shows we are not through with the worst part of this pandemic.”

Hairston said nearly 20% of teachers in the district have said they are fearful to return to the classroom or they will need special accommodations. She said, “I’m convinced on Aug. 17 we cannot bring students and staff back into our buildings in a way that will absolutely ensure the safety of our students, our staff, and the greatest community without millions more in funding.

“Without extra staff to support screenings on buses and supporting small classes, and without resources that are well beyond what we have access to … I think it’s best we delay in-person instruction for the first nine weeks of school to give us more time to secure additional resources.”

To help ensure a smooth transition to remote learning for every student, district leaders are working to create teams of individuals who will help students and families who may have issues with remote learning. According to Hairston, the district has set aside $900,000 to fund the salaries of individuals who make up CARES teams across the district. She said each school will have its own CARES team and the team will be responsible for ensuring students are engaged.

When remote learning was implemented in the spring, more than 7,000 students across the district didn’t participate in eLearning regularly. District leaders are also exploring assigning homebound instructors, and sending out school buses with Wi-Fi capabilities to be used as “community classrooms” in the most vulnerable neighborhoods.

“We have put a significant amount of time into the CARES teams process … This is a team solely focused on children who are not engaged,” Hairston continued. “…We have to remember when students aren’t engaged, we lose our funding, we lose opportunity, but more than that, we have a negative impact on the community.”

Now that the board has decided to move forward with Plan C, the district will now submit the plan to the state Board of Education. The proposal is expected to be posted on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School’s website,, in a few days.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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