Many Wake County parents frustrated as virtual school registration closed with COVID-19 cases exploding

COVID-19 and schools

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Wake County Public Schools announced that no more students can move into its virtual academy. It comes as at least six schools have dealt with COVID-19 clusters in the past month.

After a year at home, Elizabeth Parent felt optimistic about sending her kids back to school. At least, she did in early May when she decided not to sign up for virtual academy.

“Things were looking great. People were getting vaccinated, cases were much lower,” she recalled. “So, I was comfortable with my kids going in person. Now, not so much.”

COVID-19 cases are rising across the state. The virus is spreading in multiple schools. According to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard, some schools have dealt with numerous cases over the past month. Herbert Akins Road Elementary School lists about 30 cases during July and August, so does Salem Elementary School.

Turner Creek Elementary School has 18 cases listed. That doesn’t mean all of those cases came from school settings — although those schools each reported clusters, as have at least three other Wake County schools.

Sarena Phillips’ daughter has had to quarantine twice since starting school last month.

“She’s been out as long as she’s been in,” Phillips said.

She hoped to switch virtual academy, but the district announced the online-only option is full and no new admissions or transfers will be accepted. School board chair Keith Sutton said there aren’t enough VA teachers to accommodate more students. Trying to rearrange classes at this point would be disruptive.

The district pointed out that schools all have mask mandates, but Phillips and Parent said they thought they’d have the option to switch to virtual learning due to the spike in COVID-19 cases.

When parents had to decide whether to register for virtual academy in the spring, the information from WCPSS read, “The district will re-evaluate registration in virtual academy if the COVID-19 pandemic surges again.”

“I don’t know who’s defining what a surge is,” Phillips said, noting that lately North Carolina’s COVID-19 case numbers have sometimes been twice as high as they were this time last year.

“I’m incredibly surprised they are not opening it up to more students,” Parent added.

WCPSS said some exceptions will be made based on specific extenuating circumstances, but even those will be based on the capacity of an individual school or class.

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