In the wake of an order by Gov. Roy Cooper to keep school buildings closed until at least May 15, thousands of Person County schoolchildren will return to school next week, but not in the way anyone would have imagined.
The students will attend school online from their homes rather than returning to their familiar classrooms. The move is an effort by the school system not to lose the remainder of the school year, while still keeping students and teachers from congregating.
Amy Seate, Person County Schools' Chief Academic Officer, said teaching in an online environment isn't new to the school system or its teachers, but she admits it will be different this time.
"We've been doing online education for a long time now," Seate said. "But never to this scale."
That scale has Seate crossing her fingers that this new online program will go well. "I'm worried about the infrastructure. All these educators from around the world, really, are going to all be trying to use this system. We'll see if it can stand up to all that."
Person County Schools will be using Google Classroom to host its classes online.
As long as the technology works, Seate said teachers are ready. "They've been working this week to put lesson plans together for this," she said. Students were allowed to return to their schools last week to pick up computers they can use during the period of time the online classes last.
It's unclear how many students came to the school to pick up computers, but Seate said participation in the program was highest among elementary school students. She estimated that more than half of the county's elementary students came to the schools on March 18 to get a device they can use to participate in the online classes.
Teachers will be able to give lessons and tests online and students will be able to download videos and watch teachers. The program is interactive so that when a student has a question, he or she can ask it during the class session.