CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As deadlines descend upon them, families across the Charlotte region are grappling with whether to send their children back to school in-person full time or enroll them in full-remote instruction.
“That’s really a thing that we’ve struggled with; I’ve lost a lot of family and friends,” said Pamela Turner, whose daughter is a 5th grader in Fort Mill School District. “We have a lot of underlying health conditions in our immediate family and in our home.”
Their daughter has asthma and has breathing and lung problems.
The Turner family made the decision together at the start of the school year to keep their daughter home, but they worried the straight-A student would lose ground.
‘Would she fall behind?” Turner wondered. “Would she not get everything she needed to get in an in-person classroom versus being virtual?”
Instead, their daughter was able to thrive. Turner said, with the help of an involved teacher, her daughter was able to maintain her grades and felt confident and comfortable in her remote learning structure. So, the Turners are in no rush to send their daughter back. They made the decision with their daughter to opt into the remote learning academy for the next school year.
“You don’t want to live in fear, but you also want to make sure that everybody feels comfortable and safe and right now she just feels like this is the best thing for her,” Turner said.
Many families are in the process of weighing their options.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District has a deadline of April 1 for families to opt-in to the full remote learning program for the remainder of the school year.
Data provided by the district in January showed that approximately 40% of CMS students enrolled in the full-remote academy in January. The number rose from more than 50,000 at the start of the academic year to more than 57,000 at the start of the second semester.
A CMS spokesperson said they will not have updated numbers to release until after the April 1st deadline.
In Fort Mill, where Turner’s daughter attends school, the deadline to enroll in the virtual academy for the 2021-2022 school year has already come and gone.
District spokesperson Joseph Burke said the deadline was early so they would have time to plan staffing placements.
“We saw much lower enrollment this year,” Burke said.
In the 2020-2021 school year, approximately 30 percent of students opted to attend the full-remote program; that represents about 5,000 students. For the upcoming school year, they only enrolled between 500-600, Burke said.
The pandemic year was the first year the school district offered a remote option. Eligibility was open to every student.
Next year, there will be stipulations. Students in grades K-2 will not have the option to attend a remote program. Burke said the year showed that youngest students learn best with in-person instruction.
Also, students who did not succeed academically in the virtual academy or who had attendance issues were not qualified to be in next year’s program.
“Part of that is trying to set our students up for success,” Burke said. “Obviously, if you’ve struggled through it this year we’re concerned that we want to get you back in person and get you back on track.”
Turner’s daughter stayed on track; that was a large reason why they felt comfortable with their decision to keep her home to start the 2021-2022 school year.
“Every child is different,” Turner said. “You know who your child is.”