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RSS moves ahead with plans for virtual K-8 school

SALISBURY — A dedicated virtual school is now in the works for Rowan-Salisbury Schools after a survey given to district families indicated a strong interest in an all-online program going in to next school year.

RSS Chief Technology Officer David Blattner noted a significant number of people the district surveyed were interested in a virtual-only option.

Superintendent Lynn Moody said the board would need to consider providing a dedicated virtual option for families because surrounding districts would be as well. Students could be pulled from the district to enroll in homeschool and alternative virtual options.

Districts receive state funding and local funding per student in Rowan County. Moody said the district does not have an estimate of how much funding the district could lose if a significant number of students left the district next year. Though, there is movement in the N.C. General Assembly to hold school districts harmless for enrollment next school year.

Moody said the district believes it has covered high school students who want to enroll virtually by giving them options. East Rowan High School has a virtual academy that is open to students throughout the district as well.

“We think there are some people who experienced virtual education during this period of time and that worked out well for their family and their child,” Moody said. “For most children we still believe face-to-face is the best instruction.”

Moody said Horizons Unlimited could be a hub for the virtual school. There, things like lab supplies and crayons could be picked up. The school would have its own principal as well.

The state has passed down three plans between which it could move as schools reopen next year. Those plans would either require in-person instruction with social distancing, reduced capacity of facilities or all virtual learning. Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to announce the plan with which school should begin on July 1. The governor could move between plans as needed so schools could reopen in-person and move all-virtual, or open all-virtual and move to in-person instruction.

During a called meeting of the Board of Education on Monday, board member Travis Allen noted his own difficulties using the education software Canvas as well as the challenge the software poses to other parents. Blattner said his department could create instructional videos for parents and Allen commended the technology department for the educational resources it has already created.

A concern fielded from the board was continuing meal services for children who are attending school virtually.

Allen, who is a criminal investigator with Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, said he was in “not a very well-to-do” family’s home recently and saw how devastated the children in the home were after missing the meals delivered via bus that day. He said the family wished the meals could be delivered every day like they were when schools first shut down and were grateful for the deliveries.

The district is looking at providing shelf stable meals for virtual students either for pickup or delivery.

Moody requested the board approve pursuing the virtual school and every board member in attendance voted in favor of the move. Chair Kevin Jones and member Dean Hunter were absent from the virtual meeting.

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