Wake County Public School System students return to classrooms for 1st time in months

COVID-19 and schools

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — For the first time in months, students are back in classrooms at some Wake County Public Schools.

Monday marked a return to in-person instruction since the COVID-19 crisis began, and forced schools to move to virtual learning.

“It was my first day in school and it was great,” said Jasper, a Douglas Elementary School second grade student.

Jasper is one of 8,000 students that will return to school over the next three weeks, making up a small portion of the 160,000 total students in the district.

Pre-K through third grade, as well as some special needs students, returned to in-person instruction Monday.

“It was kind of different than I expected.  There were like lines and stuff,” said Jasper.

For these students going back to their classrooms will look different compared to when they left in the spring at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.

Social distancing will be practiced in school, with desks spread six-feet apart.  Students will be required to wear a mask all day to guard against the spread of the virus.

Jasper’s dad Matt Marvin, said despite the safety protocol, it felt like somewhat of a return to normalcy.

“Whatever we have to do to get back to it safely.  As much as you wish it could go away, it’s not really the case.  It’s the hand we’re dealt,” said Marvin.

Parent Sam Hershey waited outside school for his son to finish the first day of kindergarten. 

“This was a very big day. Coming to a new school.  A little nervous to see how it went,” he said.

Hershey said they’ve practiced mask wearing with his 6-year-old son every time they go the playground in preparation for Monday.

He said he’s confident in the school system phased plan to return to in-person instruction, but his biggest concern is that teachers have all the necessary personal protection equipment and supplies.

“I thought it was really great of them to keep the groups small. Especially kindergarteners, to let them get used to the school and let the teachers get prepared for when all the students return,” said Hershey.

President of the Wake County chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators Kristin Beller worries if social distancing can be maintained as more children return to school, especially as cases of COVID-19 rise.

“Educators are choosing to do this work because our community has chosen to ask us to,” said Beller.

Families are required to do daily temperature and symptoms checking before sending kids to school each day.

Beller stresses everyone must do their part in and out of the classroom to ensure the health and safety of students and staff.

“If you have kids in your neighborhood that you play with and you guys only play with each other then it’s OK.  But now we’re going into other spaces, so folks are going to have to have a lot of discipline around the mask wearing and hand washing and social distancing,” she said.

Beller says over the past week the school system has addressed the NCAE’s concerns regarding safety protocols and compliance monitoring.

“It’s big step toward building trust and confidence,” she said.

Sixth through eighth-graders will return to in-person instruction on Nov. 9.

Fourth and fifth-grade students return on Nov. 16. 

High school students will stay in virtual learning for the rest of semester.

Families that did not chose WCPSS plan “B” transition will also remain in the district’s Virtual Academy.

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