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Virtual vs. remote school: Triad districts say there are differences

Plan B looks different in some districts, so we broke down what that means if your kid is learning behind a screen.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Back-to-school plans offer parents some choices this school year. 

Many plans include virtual school--where students learn completely online--or a more blended approach of in-person class and remote learning days. 

So, what is the difference between virtual and remote classes?

Most Triad districts said the big difference will be that virtual learners don't come back to the classroom at all. How often schools plan to rely on remote learning varies.

"If you think about what remote learning looks like, our kids even on Plan B, are going to be doing that three days out of the five," said Rockingham County Schools Superintendent Dr. Rodney Shotwell.

Rockingham County Schools students will do two days of in-person classes and three days of remote learning on devices. Some students will be in group A, going to school buildings on Mondays and Tuesdays while the other will be group B and attend on Thursdays and Fridays.

Nine hundred of their classmates have already been signed up for virtual school where they will learn online every day.

Remote learning days will be taught online too but Shotwell said those students will likely work with classmates over programs like Zoom more than virtual school students.

Classwork and grading will be the same for all students in and out of the classroom.

"It's going to be like you're in school. So there's an expectation for students to get the work completed on time," Shotwell said.

"What happened last spring was unusual," said Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Dr. Angela Hairston. "Because we realized that we didn't have time to give children options."

Hairston said the school board still needs to make a final decision on whether any students will return to the building for in-person classes. 

She said remote learning days could still happen throughout the year even if they do.

"When there are positive (coronavirus) results from teachers or from children," Hairston said.

Teachers in both districts are training to work virtually. Shotwell said they are learning about how to grade, plan lessons and hold classroom discussions online.

"I think traditional school as we knew (it)... will never ever be exactly like [it was]," Shotwell said.

Guilford County Schools said it will use canvas for online learning whether at virtual schools or for students at home for remote learning days.

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