RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Hundreds of thousands of students are due back at nearly all central North Carolina school districts Monday for in-person learning with the start of the traditional calendar year.
Although some school systems have had students in classes for year-round education, Monday marks the largest return of children to in-person learning in the region since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
In Wake County alone, about 116,000 traditional-calendar students will start the 2021-22 school year Monday, officials said. Nearly all school districts are back in session Monday — except Durham Public Schools, which begins Tuesday.
The school year begins after weeks of rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and heated arguments over whether face coverings will be mandated in schools.
Over the last month, some central North Carolina school systems have seen contentious disagreements over masking requirements. Several educational systems flipped their positions on the masking issue — with all now requiring face coverings indoors, at least in some fashion.
Some parents have still chosen virtual learning, although controversy over that in Wake County has parents still hoping to enroll their children despite a deadline that was in May — when progress was seen against the pandemic. About 10,700 students are enrolled in the Wake County Virtual Academy.
Now, the start of the school year appears to be besieged by the harsh delta variant of COVID-19.
The return to classrooms could also be impacted by a shortage of bus drivers. Weeks ago, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board approved $2,000 signing bonuses for newly-hired drivers when the district was about 30 positions short.