Wake County school leaders discuss Virtual Academy plans for the fall

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Wake County Board of Education is already looking ahead to next year and what that will mean for the district’s Virtual Academy. While it’s still in the planning stages, there could be some changes.

Although students recently had the option to choose to go back to school full time for the last quarter of the year, new numbers from the school district show nearly half of Wake County students remain enrolled in the Virtual Academy.

School board members say they expect fewer families to choose virtual learning next year and they’ll have to make a decision pretty quickly.

​Even with the option to go back to school full time, Raven Heyward is staying virtual for the rest of the year.

“I personally I stuck with Virtual Academy just because I did want to make sure I was being safe,” she said.

A spokesperson for the school system says district-wide, the number of students in Virtual Academy remains fairly steady with 83,529 students choosing in-person classes and 77, 358 virtual. The district expects fewer students to register for Virtual Academy in the fall.

“I definitely want to be back in the classroom on my senior year,” said Raven. “With more people getting vaccinated, I feel that I’d be safer.”

Plans for Virtual Academy are still in the works, but students could see some changes. They’ll likely be asked to commit to the academy for the entire year, and the district is still exploring whether to offer a virtual option to Pre-K through 3rd-grade students in the academy.

Plans call for the Virtual Academy to be offered at all schools except early colleges, leadership academies, alternative schools, and Crossroads FLEX High School.

Virtual Academy will, once again, be based at individual schools, but the district says students will not likely see teachers having both virtual and in-person classes at the same time.

Parents will likely need to choose whether to enroll in virtual learning by late April or early May.

“I just feel like we are creating a decision that is almost an impossible decision to make,” school board member Jim Martin said during a work session.

Martin says it will be tough for people to choose whether to enroll in Virtual Academy without seeing how the pandemic is progressing or whether COVID-19 cases rise with students in school full time.

But staff members say schools need enrollment numbers early in order to put together quality programs.

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