Online Originals: Some parents want virtual school options for 2021-2022 year as COVID-19 cases rise

School Watch

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Some local parents are asking school boards to reconsider offering a virtual schooling option for the 2021-2022 school year.

This request comes as COVID-19 cases rise in K-12 schools. The state Department of Health and Human Services reported over 9,600 children tested positive for COVID-19 in the week of August 22 alone. That was officially the first week back in school for many districts.

Greene County offered a virtual option prior to the start of the school year. Applications for that closed around a week before classes started. In Greene County, around 80 students signed up to do virtual learning. Greene County Schools Superintendent Patrick Miller tells 9OYS that option is now closed and will not become available. Miller said it’s because the county is outsourcing for its virtual learning.

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Bertie County parent and nurse Latoya Thompson created an online petition, asking the school board to change their mind.

For the kids that have underlying health issues or may have someone at home, it would give them a better chance of controlling the disease in their household. I understand some parents don’t want that option, that’s why I say let it be optional to the parents. Those who want to send theirs, let them send them, those who feel it’s beneficial for their families to keep their kids at home, let them keep their kids at home.”

Latoya Thompson, Bertie County parent and nurse

Thompson said it can also be hard for kids to understand why they are having to wear a mask and social distance, they are physical beings who learn through touch and feel. So it doesn’t surprise her the number of cases there already are in schools.

Other parents don’t feel the same way. We reached out to the community on social media and the responses were split. Some parents think the option should be offered to those who want it, others don’t believe it should be offered at all.

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Some against the virtual option say it’s not as drastic of a situation as it’s being made out to be. Others note, children may not get as sick from COVID as adults do. Another argument is that children have been away from a school setting too long, they need that in-person instruction to be successful. And others simply can’t afford the added costs it would take for their children to virtual learn at home.

9OYS also spoke with Katherine Beavers from Greenville Pediatrics to hear what they’re seeing when it comes to COVID cases in children. The numbers they are seeing are staggering.

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”It started happening about three weeks ago, almost instantaneously”, she said. “We are seeing twice as many kids, about 120 a day now in our sick office.”

Beavers also said they had to shut down their largest office to only accommodate sick and COVID-positive children. She said that’s creating a backlog of appointments for things like regular check-ups and required physicals.

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Beavers has had to ask the Pitt County Schools Board to reach out to the state and ask for an extension. She says they, “physically cannot fit all of these kids into our other two offices, because of the fact that we are seeing all these sick kids.”

9OYS reached out to Bertie County Schools for their response to the virtual learning options requests, but have not heard back.

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