The Warren County school system will implement virtual learning for all of its students to begin the 2020-21 school year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Warren County Board of Education unanimously approved the recommendation during its regular meeting on July 14.

Virtual learning will be in place for the first quarter of the year, which would begin on Aug. 17 and end on Oct. 9. Warren County Schools will continue to review data about the spread of the novel coronavirus to determine whether it would be safe to bring students back to the classroom or continue virtual learning after that date.

Andre Stewart, the school system’s chief operations officer, told the board that the school system had developed several plans for reopening school: complete return to school buildings, a combination of in-person and virtual learning, and a virtual academy. He noted that the state required every school district in North Carolina to develop virtual academies for students whose parents did not feel comfortable in sending them back to school.

Stewart said that Warren County Schools began accepting applications for the virtual academy last week. As of July 13, more than 200 applications were received.

He noted that surveys of parents and school system staff members revealed that most respondents were concerned about holding classes in person. A number of teachers who fall into high risk categories due to age or health problems indicated that they would not feel safe returning to school until a COVID-19 vaccine is available, Stewart said.

He added that over the past few days, he had received phone calls and text messages from concerned parents who about what would happen if their children returned to class. A grandfather whose high school-age grandchild lives with him worried that his grandchild could come home with the virus and spread it to him.

Stewart said that Warren County Schools has been making preparations for temperature checks, social distancing and disinfecting schools and buses in case students returned to class. However, due to social distancing, buses would hold no more than 11 students at a time, compared to the normal 45 students on each bus route.

These concerns led to the recommendation to begin the school year by using virtual education.

Stewart said that Warren County Schools will provide Chromebooks to all of its students for a fee of $20. With the board’s decision, the school system will work to set up WiFi hot spots for students in areas without internet access.

In addition, Warren County Schools is working to ensure that students will continue to have access to meals at its feeding sites.

Additional information will become available as the start of the school year approaches.

Click on the links to hear a current update from Warren County Schools' Superintendent Dr. Mary Young or to view the recording of the Tuesday, July 14 school board meeting when reopening was discussed.