Warren County Schools’ July 22 virtual town hall meeting drew 115 participants wanting to learn more about the school system’s plans to begin the 2020-21 school year with online learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. School will begin on Aug. 17.

Earlier this month, the board of education voted to use virtual learning for the first quarter of the year, which will end on Oct. 9. Warren County Schools will continue to monitor trends in COVID-19 cases to determine whether it is safe for students to return to the classroom later in the year.

Andre Stewart, school system chief operations officer, said that Warren County Schools has ordered 1,800 new Chromebooks for the upcoming year. Schools in the local district will distribute Chromebooks and student handbooks during pick-up days planned for the week of Aug. 10. Parents will pay a fee of $20 per child for use of Chromebooks, and will be required to return them at the end of the school year.

Orientation will be held the week of Aug. 10 as well. Class schedules will be available in the first week of August.

Principals will offer virtual presentations about the student handbooks for their schools, Stewart added.

He explained that students will log on at scheduled times for live instruction from their teachers. However, lessons will be recorded so that students can access them at different times if needed. Attendance will be recorded.

Stewart said that teachers will contact parents on a regular basis and will hold scheduled office hours when parents and students can ask questions. He described a typical school week as having four days of live lessons with a fifth day for students to put what they learned into practice.

Stewart warned that parents must make sure that their children log on for instruction every day and keep up with their studies. 

“Grades will be taken for all assignments. There will be no ‘COVID-pass,’” he said, referring to the state’s decision not to assign number or letter grades to students for their work after North Carolina schools closed in the spring due to the novel coronavirus.

Online remediation in small groups will be available for students who need additional help, and teachers’ office hours will allow for one-on-one assistance, Stewart added.

The amount of time that a student will spend online each day will vary depending on his or her age. Stewart estimated that elementary school-aged children will be online around two to three hours each day, while high school students will spend more time in virtual learning.

The school system expects that virtual learning will not have much of an impact on the types of classes it is able to offer. Stewart said that all subjects taught in school will be available online, with the exception of a few Career and Technical Education classes.

In response to parent questions, Stewart explained that music and art classes will be available, as will Exceptional Children’s classes. 

High school students will be able to take Vance-Granville Community College classes online.

Stewart also told parents that Warren County Schools is working to ensure that Northside K-8 School’s Spanish language immersion program will continue.

He said that teachers from schools across the district will be able to work together to plan lessons and upload instructional videos.

Among the parents’ greatest concerns was internet access. Stewart said that the school system is working to provide hot spots in areas with no internet access. He added that school parking lots will offer hot spots between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., and that the school system is working with county officials so that some county buildings can serve as hot spots. In addition, Warren County Schools will make plans to provide portable hot spots in areas with no internet access.

Stewart said that it is important for parents to complete the internet access portion of the virtual academy application which was mailed to them because it will help the school system know where hot spots are most needed. 

Warren County Schools is seeking resources that will enable the school system to provide financial assistance to families who cannot afford internet service, he added.

Stewart said that student will be offered from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at Northside K-8 School, Vaughan Elementary School and Warren County High School through Aug. 31. Food service will continue throughout the school year with details to be worked out.

Warren County Schools will hold a second community town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 5. To access the meeting, go to meet.google.com/gbv-hohi-sqb or call 1-210-951-9476. The PIN number is 988 478 624#.