Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools going with Remote Learning for the First Nine Weeks of School

from the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools website/

For the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools as the new 2020-2021 school year begins on August 17….

Remote Learning, for the first nine weeks of school.

A Letter From Superintendent Dr. Angela P. Hairston:
The past few weeks have been a balancing act. As a public school district, we have been tasked with trying to balance our number one priority – providing a safe, sound, quality education for all students – with the task of also protecting the safety, health and wellness of our nearly 55,000 students, 8,000 employees and their respective families.

I believe wholeheartedly that children need to be in school to learn best. Children need time with teachers. Children need to be with their friends and support groups, their social clubs and after school play pals. School is an essential part of the health and wellness of children. It is why we have worked to look at every way possible to make safely reopening school in the fall, a reality. It is why we have presented multiple plans in recent weeks, multiple ways to try and reopen our schools.

But today, I think about the status of our community with one of the highest infection rates in our state. I see hard, scientific data that shows we are not through the worst of this pandemic. I see data to suggest that the risk of infection is still very high. Nearly 20% of our teachers tell us they are either fearful of or are in need of special accommodations in order to return to the classroom, yet we must have their full support and endorsement if we are to reopen our schools safely. I see budgets that cannot support all the ways necessary to safely return. I read emails from hundreds of concerned parents and teachers. For all of those reasons and a host of others, I think about that balancing act, and the scales begin to tip. Going back to school for our communities and families is still of great concern to me.

For all those reasons, I am not convinced on August 17 we can bring students and staff back into our buildings in a way that absolutely ensures the health and safety of our students, our staff and the greater community. Without millions more in funding, without extra staff, and without resources that are well beyond what we have the means to acquire, I think it best that we delay in-person learning for the first nine weeks of school. We need more time for this virus to subside.

***********While I do not recommend this lightly, I am proposing to this board that we implement Plan C, Remote Learning, for the first nine weeks of school. This delay allows time for the virus to subside, more time for our schools to prepare, time for our teachers to build rigorous online learning to kickoff the year that easily transitions into a safer return to in-person learning at the end of that 9 weeks. As the first 9 weeks come to a close, we can reassess where infection levels are within our community and our state and transition into a modified or hybrid plan of in-person and virtual learning much like the Plan B that I outlined today.************

I know this decision comes with frustration for parents who struggled with virtual learning in the spring. But over the next four weeks as we work to begin school, we will improve that model. You will see big differences in the new version of online learning. Teachers will be teaching. We will be taking attendance and giving grades. There will be more training for parents, students and staff, and multiple ways to learn, including flex days, and time for one-on-one conversations with teachers. What we offer will not change. Art, music, physical education, languages, CTE, AP, IB, STEM classes, and virtual field trips will be a part of our remote learning. It will be robust and rigorous.

This is a tough decision, as I want our students in school. But the safety and health of our staff, students and their families must remain paramount.