Wake County parents push school district to expand virtual academy as COVID-19 cases surge

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As COVID-19 cases and clusters continue in schools across Wake County, some parents are pushing the district to re-open virtual academy registration.

Madhu Kumar signed up both her children for in-person learning before the district’s May 2 deadline. But with COVID-19 delta variant cases increasing, she now says she feels more wary of in-person learning than she was months ago.

“That’s a big worry for a lot of people, especially with children under 12 who are not eligible to be vaccinated,” Kumar said. “When the cases started rising three weeks ago, my daughter started her year-round school and so we wanted to switch back and they wouldn’t allow us to switch back to virtual.”

She started an online petition to expand the virtual academy and has already gained more than 1,500 signatures as of Friday night.

“It’s a call for the district to take action about this because thousands of people are in the same situation as I am,” Kumar said.

But the Wake County Public School System says there’s no more room to expand virtual academy classes.

The district is also reporting 130 teacher vacancies for online classrooms.

“Class schedules are set, students have been assigned to teachers and school bus routes are nearly finalized. There is simply no more room – or time to find and hire additional staff – to accommodate shifts among classes or schools,” district officials said in an Aug. 10 letter. “Continued movement would only cause disruption in teaching and learning for those in school. It would also present formidable challenges for schools that are about to open.”

Parent Adriana de Souza e Silva said she is also trying to put her children in online classes again.

“Now it’s a week before classes start and we don’t have an option and I think that’s the main issue,” de Souza e Silva said. “As elementary school kids, they are 100 percent unvaccinated.”

Since late July, the district has reported nine COVID-19 clusters in schools across the county. Three of those were in the past week alone and five were in elementary schools.

The district has 161,800 total children enrolled, with 10,588 of those are in the virtual academy, which means roughly 6.5 percent of students are enrolled online.

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