Given that North Carolina is hit every so often with hurricanes and other natural disasters, one would think that state education officials would have an emergency or contingency plan if schools were closed. But they don’t.
Wake County Public Schools has been criticized by parents for not having a remote learning plan up and running more quickly. It’s not really remote learning, it’s learning from home. Some might even call that homeschooling, depending on how much the parent is involved.
But parents and the public are criticizing the wrong thing. It’s not why is remote learning not up and running, the question is why is it that North Carolina’s largest district didn’t have a remote learning plan at all?
But don’t think it’s just WCPSS that didn’t have a plan. No districts seem to have one and neither does the Department of Public Instruction or the State Board of Education. Those entities appear to be cobbling one together as they go.
“I know that in a period where there’s a lot of uncertainty and anxiety, especially from parents, there’s a lot of demand for instant answers and instant fixes,” said board member Chris Heagarty at Tuesday’s virtual board meeting.
“It’s hard to explain to people in today’s internet age that we can’t just flip a switch and put all of our classrooms onto Zoom for everyone,” Heagarty said.
Actually, Mr. Heagarty, yes – you would be able to just flip a switch – if you had a plan.
Bill Fletcher said parents should “reflect on the complexity of creating a virtual school district in three weeks.”
“Rome wasn’t built in a day and nor will a robust, fully functioning distance learning program be built in a day,” Fletcher said.
It shouldn’t have to be built in a day. There should have been a plan in place already. There should have at least been a template, an emergency plan or a bare-bones contingency model. North Carolina has a virtual public school that WCPSS could have used as a model. In fact, any online school or university could have been a template.
Fletcher is wrong. It is the fault of the staff. Along with the board, this kind of planning is their job. And they didn’t do it. Instead, they’ve been plotting about how to reassign your child based on their “socioeconomic index score.”
It’s not, however, the fault of teachers. They’ve never been given professional development to host virtual lessons or techniques for distance learning. That’s of course unless one was a teacher at the SCORE Academy, facilitating learning online for suspended students.
Frankly, it’s appalling teachers have not been offered this kind of training and yet are forced to sit and listen to lectures or enroll in courses about how their “white privilege” is why their students are failing.
The question is not “why isn’t remote learning up and running?” The question is why wasn’t there a plan for it in the first place? Was the lack of even the most basic plan because this board never thought it would happen on their watch? That’s probably a major piece of it, but it’s not the biggest one.
You wouldn’t hear these kinds of excuses the board members are making if parents were asking why a magnet school wasn’t open yet. There’s a plan for those.
This district can host webinars on equity, social justice, and inclusion until the cows come home, but not one on fractions, science or U.S. History. Why?
Because some parents might realize their kids can learn from anywhere and that a brick and mortar school is not essential to all families. Don’t get me wrong, not all students or families are cut out for learning outside a traditional school, but more are than people think; kids adapt and so do their parents.
Parents also might realize they can be instrumental to that learning and that’s the biggest piece – waking up to the real meaning of school choice. One just needs a plan and a place to start.
North Carolinians are asking, what was the emergency plan for school continuity?
The answer is: You are.
Virtual Board Meeting:
A parent took notes and provided the highlights to me.
Remote Learning Plan Meeting
Overall: 142 people attended the meeting. It seems WCPSS is moving forward with a remote learning plan that will include new content and teacher/student interactions via online platforms. Few details were given because they are still working them out.
The board stated that the recording of the meeting will be posted on the Board of Education (BOE)website and on the WCPSS YouTube channel. Public comments emailed in were already posted on BOE website. There were about 10 emails from parents.
Week of 3/23-3/27
Students will continue to practice items on review website
AP Students – See College Board’s AP site-free AP review classes start tomorrow 3/25 on College Board site
Teachers will make contact with students regarding student device status and Internet status
We will learn more about minimum online office hours to be held by Teachers
Paper packet creation to start for all grade levels
Week of 3/30 – 4/3
Students continue to use a review website
Students will begin checking out laptops (for those who don’t have laptops already)
Students will train on remote learning platforms
April 1, teachers will begin posting assignments; it is unclear if this is new content or review.
Paper packet distribution to students who need it will start
Week of 4/6 – 4/10
Traditional students are out on spring break, though teacher/student interactions on a platform will also occur for students who want to log in.
Year-round schools launch remote learning.
Laptop checkout to students continues
Teacher and staff remote learning training taking place (I’m not sure why this isn’t happening right away, or if it is)
Week of 4/13 – 4/17
Full remote learning for traditional schools in the district will launch
Drew Cook (assistant superintendent for academics) said they would be getting out information on grading, teacher expectations, when and how printed materials will be used and which platforms will be used for remote learning.
Remote learning will include synchronous, asynchronous and virtual office hours.
Platforms mentioned: CANVAS, GOOGLE MEET, GOOGLE CLASSROOM