Originally published to WRAL.com - August 11, 2021
In less than 10 days, thousands of students on a traditional calendar head back to class.
As coronavirus cases surge across the state, some schools have already seen major impacts, putting hundreds of children into quarantine mere weeks after starting school.
Some parents who have been watching these issues are raising concerns over the more contagious Delta variant and school outbreaks – and are worried about the limited virtual options for parents who want to keep their kids out of the classroom.
Several say they aren't comfortable sending their child back.
When COVID cases took a dip earlier this year, Elizabeth Parent felt safe sending her two children back to class. However, the Delta variant and surging cases has changed everything.
"At the time we were thinking let's do it in person," she said. "It looks great! Numbers are low. What's the likelihood of kids catching COVID?"
Now, she questions her decision of not selecting a virtual learning option.
"I desperately want them to be learning from home this year because I do not feel safe with them in school with how the trends are looking with COVID right now," she said.
She wanted to switch to Virtual Academy in Wake County – but district officials say there’s no more room and not enough time to find additional staff.
"Parents are scrambling," said Marcia Simmons, who oversees North Carolina Virtual Academy, an online public charter school.
With the virus spreading in more schools, she said parents are weighing the best alternative for their children.
"We have seen an increase in number of applications we’ve been getting, especially in K-5," she said. "Those are the groups not eligible for vaccine right now."
Johnston County's Virtual Academy has extended their enrollment deadline for all students grades K-12.
When parents had to decide in the spring to register for the Virtual Academy, guidance said the district would re-evaluate registration if cases surge again. As of now, officials have not changed this guidance, and they believe students will be safe with the mandatory mask mandate in place.
To learn more about North Carolina Virtual Academy, visit ncva.k12.com