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The School Year During COVID-19 in Guilford County: Remote Learning Technology and Custody

Link to Comments from Superintendent Contreras

As we’ve written before, the plan is still to begin the school year on August 17, with complete remote learning. Some parents, especially co-parents who share custody, may have concerns regarding the technology that will be used for the remote learning, such as, what if I don’t have internet at home? Or what if I don’t have devices? Or what if I have devices/internet, but my co-parent does not. On August 11, 2020, the Guilford County School Superintendent Sharon Contreras gave comments regarding the reopening procedures for schools, including some news on technological issues.

In May, the county dispatched school buses and drivers repurposed as “smart buses” with internet wi-fi hotspots that students and parents may connect to in order to complete remote learning. Those buses are due to make a reappearance this school year. 125 buses are expected to roll out to neighborhoods identified to be “high-needs.” Exact schedules and locations have yet to be released, but the county anticipates that they will reach over 3,500 individuals.

In addition to “smart buses,” designated community Learning Centers will provide spaces for students to attend virtual lessons and complete assignments. So far, 13 schools have been designated as Learning Centers, where the actual rooms for students with be separate from the teachers and staff that are working in the school, and presumably they will limit hallway access as well. Keep in mind that there are no plans in place at this time to institute transportation to the Learning Centers. Furthermore, they will be open only from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Parents of students that wish to use the Learning Centers will need to complete a registration process. The current 13 schools are:

  • Cone Elementary
  • McLeansville Elementary
  • Reedy Fork Elementary
  • Parkview Elementary
  • Sedalia Elementary
  • Washington Elementary
  • Wiley Elementary
  • Eastern Middle
  • Jackson Middle
  • Southeast Middle
  • Andrews High
  • Northeast Guilford High and,
  • Southwest Guilford High

Also noted was the new purchase of 79,000 learning devices for children and families that do not have them to complete remote learning. Currently, no instructions have been issued for which students will be receiving the new devices, and if there is any process for families that need them to request them.

What does this mean for parents operating under a custody plan without internet access or devices at home? It may be time to review your custody plan and speak to an attorney in order to plan for the upcoming virtual learning period. Depending on your plan, there already might be provisions and contingencies that account for unexpected events. For those parents who need to take their children to a Learning Center or who need to take them to a place they can access the internet via smart bus, you will need to make plans for how shared custody will work around the children’s educational needs. Some parents, however, especially those that work during the day, might be highly impacted by not having their children physically attend school. Those parents that work during afterschool hours may also need to reflect on their children’s educational needs for home-schooling and review of assignments. In these cases, modifications to your custody plan may need to be considered. If we learn anything from the news of infection rates in states that have already returned to in-person school, it is that the forecast for virtual learning may very well be extended, and concerned parents with custody plans ought to prepare.