Parents urge Wake County Schools to reopen virtual option as COVID cases rise

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As more students head back to school, the number of COVID cases on campuses continues to rise.

Wake County Schools reported more than 500 COVID cases among students and staff in August.

More than 140 cases were reported in the first two days of school this week.

Some parents are now urging the district to reopen virtual academy registration because they are concerned about more COVID cases reaching even more schools.

The situation is causing concern for parents like Madhu Kumar.

She chose to send her two children back in person but said that decision was made before the delta variant surge that is hitting the country and the Triangle.

Now, Kumar wants her children to learn from home as part of the virtual academy but said she was told it’s too late for that.

“We are worried as parents because the schools are crowded, the cafeterias are crowded, and children don’t always wear their masks the correct way so it’s a concern,” Kumar said.

Families started a Facebook support page and even an online petition, both with thousands of supporters, hoping to convince the district to reopen the virtual option.

Wake County Schools previously said it would not accept any more students into virtual academy.

However, with cases rising due to the new more contagious strain, CBS 17 asked what it would take to reconsider.

Lisa Luten, spokeswoman for the district, said Wake County Schools doesn’t plan to do so at this time saying:

“We are currently not accepting additional students into the virtual academy due to a shortage of teachers. We continue to review the situation to see if and when we can accept new students into the Virtual Academy.”

CBS 17 asked Wake County Schools if any incentives were being offered to recruit or retain more virtual academy teachers.

The district said there are no new incentives for virtual academy teachers.

The district also said there is no current set situation or number of COVID cases that would signal a move to reopen virtual academy.

School Board Chair Keith Sutton said never say never but that there is simply no capacity for such a move at the moment.

“You can’t get a flight off the ground and you’re still boarding passengers so at some point we’ve got to close the door and say we are at capacity or we’ll never be able to fly this plane,” said Sutton.

CBS 17 asked every school board member if they would support or oppose reopening virtual academy. The ones that did respond didn’t answer the question and referred us to Sutton.

Board member Jim Martin sent CBS 17 this statement Wednesday night:

“I am not ready to take on the VA argument at this time as I believe we need to be focused primarily on controlling the case rate in all of our schools. While I have advocated for expansion of VA, I also recognize that we simply do not have the staff to expand the model as implemented.”

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