Elementary school teachers across Forsyth County made room in their classrooms last week as more than 1,600 students switched back from virtual to face-to-face learning.
Leading up to the second quarter of the school year starting on Oct. 19, parents of K-5 students had the choice to change their commitments either to virtual or face-to-face learning through a survey sent out by leaders of Forsyth County Schools.
Before the start of the school year, nearly 9,000 elementary students in the district committed to virtual learning at least for the start of the year. Now, the number of virtual K-5 students has dropped to 7,247.
Some parents said that, while the pandemic is still a concern, their kids just do not learn as well at home without a teacher guiding them through hands-on assignments.
FCS parent Jessica Baker said that she ended up switching from virtual to face-to-face classes for her daughter because she just felt she was not learning the same at home.
Baker has been working at home full-time since the beginning of the pandemic while also trying to teach and help her daughter with assignments throughout the day. They made their ‘new normal’ work well for them, but she still felt like she could not give her daughter and her education the attention she needed in between conference calls.
“As a parent who is anxious about COVID, it has been hard to navigate what is right,” Baker said. “But I just try to focus on what is best for our family and take it one step at a time. If it was up to just me, I would keep her home. But she misses the interaction, and I do believe a teacher at school can do a better job than I am doing supporting her with her studies. I am beyond thankful for our teachers and how they are able to assist our kids.”
The number of virtual students broken down from each school is now available on the district’s website.
There were also changes in high school and middle school virtual student numbers since the beginning of the school year. FCS spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo said that the changes in middle and high school virtual numbers between the first and second quarters were due to families making a change earlier in the year after school had already started.
“Since this was new, if a student or family had a situation where a change in learning environment would be best for the student, individual schools had the ability to make the modification earlier in the semester,” Caracciolo said.
These numbers showed a rise in virtual students between the start of the school year and the start of the first quarter, with nearly 300 more middle and high school students going virtual.
Middle and high school students did not have the choice to switch between virtual and face-to-face going into the second quarter, but all FCS students now have the choice to switch going into the second half of the school year. Parents can make that choice by filling out a survey sent out by school leaders.
Many parents with children in virtual learning are still unsure of what decision they want to make going into the survey deadline next week, especially as Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden recently announced that there was a spike in COVID-19 cases within schools and that he and other school leaders have seen a decline in the number of students wearing masks.
Although there are concerns, the number of active COVID-19 cases in FCS are still low compared to neighboring counties and school districts.
Decisions on virtual and face-to-face learning are due by Monday, Nov. 2. If the school does not receive a survey from a student, it is assumed that the student will continue with the commitment they originally chose either for the beginning of the year or second quarter.
Bearden said at the latest Board of Education meeting that the decision made in the survey is a semester-long commitment for all K-12 students. Elementary school students will not be able to switch again going into the fourth quarter as Bearden said it is testing season and changes in schooling could complicate the learning process both for students and teachers.