WCPSS recently voted to create a virtual academy for the 2021-2022 school year, and while a portion of students are enticed by this option, they also have some concerns about how effective and rewarding the virtual experience will be.
What concerns do students have?
Many students believe that the social aspect of school is crucial and are concerned about the lack of participation within some virtual classes.
Megan Carawan (‘23) touched on the importance of addressing this strife, stating, “I would personally like more time to talk with my classmates. I know a lot of people hate it, and I don’t think people should be required to, but it would be nice to have breakout rooms where people actually had their cameras and mics on to talk about anything.”
The pandemic has left many in a state of social isolation, and virtual academy is one of the primary ways that students can continue to talk to one another from home without safety concerns.
“Whether it actually be an assignment with something that allows us to connect and socialize or for it to just be time to get to know one another. Whenever I had time to just connect with my classmates, it would just make my day which makes me sound really lonely, I’m not. I just like being social,” Carawan added.
Still, while some are struggling with the social implications of virtual academy, others are more concerned about the structure of learning. While classes are currently a hybrid of virtual and in-person learning, many students are pushing for a stronger delineation between the two.
“I would like to see teachers not have to teach both virtual and in person. I feel like there’s no real reason to come back to school because all of the work is online and teachers don’t get up in front of the class and teach like they did before the virus,” stated Zach Wolfe (‘23).
Some students who are projected to be fully vaccinated before the next school year are optimistic that they will be able to attend school in-person but are also acknowledging the possibility of another wave.
“Since I will be fully vaccinated by the time I attend school, I will be planning on attending in-person, especially because it is my senior year of high school! However, if cases are still not decreasing, my option would most definitely be Virtual,” stated Mansa Konduru (‘22)
How do teachers feel about Virtual Academy?
In addition to students, teachers have also expressed their opinions on the Virtual Academy. Many teachers stressed the importance of having a virtual option to accommodate the students who don’t feel comfortable returning to school next August.
Rebecca Timblin, a teacher at Green Hope, is among these advocates for the virtual academy, stating, “Virtual Academy is a way for students to safely attend education. It also provides security that there will not be interruption in their daily school year. This is an excellent option for families that have immune compromised students or family members.”
But while Timblin is in favor of the virtual option, she believes there are some caveats.
“I am a firm believer that face to face education is still the most effective for K-12th. Social and emotional development is a huge part of education. In person learning with teachers and peers provides these skills and relationship development that will last a lifetime.”
Other teachers, such as Donika Clark, are wholly enthusiastic about the virtual learning system and believe that it could be viable even in a post-pandemic world.
“I think it is great! It’s the new wave,” Clark stated. “Other online academies have been offering these options for years, before the pandemic.”
Other teachers, however, are also focusing on the economic benefits of the virtual academy.
“It’s important. We need it not so much for covid, but for reducing the cost of education. Wake county schools are growing at an alarming rate for the tax base. We need to find a way to reduce cost,” stated Anthony Pluchino, a teacher at Green Hope. “Year round school, dividing the school day so 9 and 10 grades are in the morning and 11 and 12 in the afternoon and or every 11 and 12 grader must take at least one virtual class per semester. This will reduce class size and better prepare students for the world of work,” he added.
With the continuation of the Virtual Academy for the 2021-2022 school year, many students and teachers have differing opinions and concerns due to the uncertainty of what the new school year will look like. More information regarding the state of next year’s education is expected to be announced over the coming months, revealing how close the Green Hope community will be to normal.