Former long-serving state superintendent favors virtual learning during pandemic

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Former three-term North Carolina State Superintendent June Atkinson likens the COVID-19 pandemic to the many storms the state has faced in the past.

“I certainly understand parents’ frustration of having to work, of having to help children more than ever. But, we need to take a deep breath and think the long run,” she said.

“When we have a hurricane, some of the students cannot go back to school because of damage to the buildings, whereas in other parts of the state they can. So, I do believe that it’s really important that local decision makers look at their communities. What they have available, the capacity, how the schools can be reconfigured to make that decision.”

Atkinson said some students have specific needs that are better addressed in a face-to-face setting. Right now, though, she thinks virtual learning in the answer. She said the state needs to make sure the pandemic is under control before everyone can head back to the classroom.

Atkinson also said she’s frustrated with the federal response.

“Bullying teachers and educators by saying ‘open schools’ without a plan, without forethought, without preparation will not get us to the place where we’d want to educate every child.”

Before Atkinson was elected and became, at the time, the longest-serving state superintendent in the country, she wrote about virtual schooling in the 1990s. She envisioned it as part of the future but didn’t imagine it would be a pandemic forcing it.

“I know so many of them and I know that they would prefer to be in school face-to-face,” she said. “I know that they would be working with every child. But, we have to keep our workforce in mind. Our educators our support staff are critical to the success of school.”

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