The Wake County Public School System approved the creation of a Virtual Academy on Tuesday last week. With this, they also approved a registration timeline for the 2021-22 school year which opened on April 22. The registration deadline is May 2, and confirmation of virtual academy status will be delivered to families by May 12.
This decision was made with consideration of families that may be hesitant to get vaccinated as well as those who are still unsure if an in-person learning environment would be feasible this soon.
One of the students who is planning on staying virtual, Ritvika Yeyuvuri (‘22), cited several reasons for her decision, “There are various concerns regarding new variants of COVID-19 that might increase the rise in cases…I have gotten used to the virtual environment and can probably hold in my urge to see people for another year. For me, definite safety is important.”
For some others, however, the safety is less of a concern compared to the benefits they feel Virtual Academy holds.
One of these students, Megan Khor (‘24), is opting to stay virtual next year, reasoning, “Personally I find it easier following my own schedule, it’s less stressful, and I do better with managing my own time. It also forces me to teach myself proper time management. It also teaches you to discipline yourself to get assignments done on time.”
Despite this, Khor is still concerned about the social implications of her decision, adding, “I will say that I miss having the social part of in person school though. Miss being a part of an actual community. I also feel like I’m missing a part of my high school life because I was supposed to go to in person school this year.”
This social aspect is one of the driving reasons behind the majority (84.1%) of Green Hope students saying they’ll be opting to return in-person next year. Although this number is prone to change as more information is available regarding the state of the pandemic within the next few months, the majority seem confident that everything will be situated by then.
This sentiment is most prevalent in current and rising seniors, who don’t want to see their last year at Green Hope through a screen. Ethan Batchelor (‘21) decided to return to in-person this year, reasoning, “It is my senior year and I feel like this is just the right way to end my time with Green Hope. Just coming back to pick up items at the front of the school a wave of what I thought was nostalgia.”
Abel Lu (’22), is among the many students who are ready to see their friends again. “I’d rather be in person with my friends for it than online behind a screen,” he said.
Those who are returning to the classroom also expressed a hopeful outlook relating to vaccinations. The CDC reports that 28.9% of U.S. citizens have been vaccinated, with that statistic steadily increasing. Lu continued, saying, “We will all be vaccinated by [next year], so safety will not be a huge concern.”
Benjamin Lu (‘24) resonated the in-person sentiment, providing several reasons he’s deciding to return to physical school, “To see all of my friends and teachers and experience high school by actually walking through campus and have sports/extracurriculars after. Personally, I learned better by real life interaction, and it is fun to be with all of my classmates in that environment.”
What Will the Virtual Academy Look Like?
Wake County has made clear that next year’s virtual academy will look different from virtual learning of the past. School officials aim to eliminate the concurrent teaching system, in which teachers instruct both a virtual and in-person class at the same time.
Possible solutions that have been proposed include having different teachers dedicated to the virtual environment, but specifics are still uncertain. Despite this added disconnection between virtual and in-person students, virtual students will remain tied to their base school in terms of scheduling and extracurricular activities.
Hayleigh Parkin, a teacher at Green Hope, expressed the importance of having a separate classroom for virtual students.
“I think that a virtual option should be offered, but it should be offered at the district level. Teachers should not be expected to do both like we did this year. In my opinion, there should be an entirely separate program that caters to virtual students with a group of teachers that are strictly virtual,” Parkin stressed.
Virtual Academy classes are expected to last approximately six hours per day, with three of those being live instruction. However, these hours may fluctuate based on how much time the teacher believes will be needed to fully cover all of the necessary content.
Even though the majority of Green Hope students are planning to learn in-person next year, Wake County’s decision to institute a Virtual Academy for the 2021-2022 school year is certainly helping to address the concerns of those who are not ready to return to physical school so soon.
Share your feedback about this decision here, and stay tuned for more student and teacher responses tomorrow!