With schools remaining closed for months, districts expand remote teaching plans

K-12 schools closed through May 15

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - As tens of thousands of students across southeastern North Carolina sit at home at a time they would normally be in school, some public school districts are preparing to launch online classes.

Governor Roy Cooper will sign an executive order Monday that closes public K-12 schools across North Carolina for in-person instruction until May 15.

Columbus County Schools plans to implement their new plan Monday to fill the instructional void.

“Starting March 30, we will be moving to digital learning across the district," CCS spokesman Kelly Jones explained. “We have been training and preparing faculty this past week and are ready to roll out next Monday. We have partnered with local businesses and faith-based organizations, as well as the local branch libraries, to assist students that lack Internet. We also have many take home devices that are being utilized.”

“As far as curriculum delivery goes, it will be new material from the teacher to the assigned class, as you would expect in a typical face to face situation," he continued. “Students will have one on one access to the teacher. We are not attempting to replicate the classroom, but rather use this time as a way to create an engaging online learning experience for our students that will last long after we have returned to our physical spaces.”

Pender County Schools said they are in the process of developing a plan and will be making an announcement in the coming days. In the meantime, they are encouraging students who do not have internet access to use WiFi hot spots at Heide Trask, Topsail, and Pender High School parking lots as well as the public library in Burgaw. The parking lots where students can access WiFi will be marked with orange barrels, which students can log onto with school issued devices from 7 am to 7 pm.

“Last Monday, a lot of students and their families picked up Chromebooks from our schools in anticipation of online learning becoming necessary. With help from our community partners, including ATMC, Four County Electric, the Pender County Government and NCDOT, we’re trying to make sure our students have the opportunity to access the information they need to keep learning,” Pender County Schools Superintendent Dr. Steven Hill. If students did not get the opportunity to pick up a PCS-issued device last week, they are asked to contact their school to set up a possible pickup in the coming days.

Whiteville City Schools reported an 80% participation rate in the plan they launched on March 17.

Students in grades Pre-K through 8th were able to pick up learning packets for the schools or have them delivered. These packets contained about two weeks of learning materials. Students with internet access were also encouraged to use Imagine Math for grades K-10 and Imagine Language and Literacy programs for grades K-6.

WCS asked student to try to complete three lessons per week per subject. High School students were asked to access on-line platforms they already used to continue their studies. If they did not have capabilities to go on-line from home, they were asked to contact their individual teachers to get packets of printed materials.

“We are currently continuing our distance learning program and packet-based learning materials for homes that have connectivity concerns. We met this morning to continue to evaluate areas for improvement to best meet the needs of our students during this unprecedented time,” WCS Superintendent Marc Whichard said Monday.

New Hanover County Schools spokesperson Ann Gibson hoped to announce a distance learning update late Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning.

Brunswick County Schools is also making plans, but is not currently requiring student participation.

“Teachers and Administrators are creating distance learning plans and looking for/sharing best practices right now as well as already connecting online with many students each day to keep their minds engaged," said Brunswick County Schools Spokesman Daniel Seamans. “There is currently no mandate for remote/distance learning from NCDPI [North Carolina Department of Public Instruction], but we will be prepared and make continued adjustments should that time come.”

“Right now, we’re following the guidance of NCDPI and using this time to organize so that if/when there is additional guidance issued, we’ll be ready," he continued. “BCS Teachers have been very active with their students for the past week in online teachings for engagement but it is not a requirement for students to take part at this point.”

We are waiting to hear back from Bladen County Schools for any new plans they are working on now that this school closure may last longer than initially hoped. On March 18, BCS began distributing work packets students could use for at-home learning. Those packets included materials to help students review and practice previously taught course content.

Students were also provided with supplemental resources to extend learning during the school closure. BCS students taking online courses were able to continue doing so presuming they had internet access.

“Last week it became very clear that this was going to be a multi month event,” State Superintendent Mark Johnson said at the Governor’s press conference in Raleigh Monday.

Johnson suggested that until a formal plan is in place, parents should continue to provide educational opportunities for their children at home.

“My message to parents: If you haven’t already, now is the time to start a routine with your child. We cannot treat this as a long break," Johnson continued. “Your child does not have to master calculus at home. But help keep them engaged in their learning. Wake up at a reasonable time every morning. Work on remote learning and read and write for a few hours every day. Go outside. Social distancing does not mean you can’t get fresh air. And go to bed at a reasonable time. Set a schedule and stick to it.”

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