Wake schools will only use remote instruction as a last resort. Here’s when.

Travis Long/tlong@newsobserver.com

Unless it’s a last resort, Wake County school leaders don’t plan to switch students to online classes if in-person instruction can’t be held.

A Wake County school board committee Tuesday reviewed administrative guidelines that lay out limited circumstances when Superintendent Cathy Moore would switch an in-person day to a remote instruction day. It would take an emergency — such as avoiding cutting into spring break — before schools would go to online classes.

The updated rules and procedures for Wake’s online instruction policy follow the backlash over how remote instruction was offered during the pandemic.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, remote instruction days were discussed as a way of holding classes in lieu of having snow days. The stumbling block was that not all families had computers or internet access at home.

During the pandemic, students were provided with district computers to use at home. But multiple state and national studies have shown that students performed better when receiving in-person instruction than strictly online classes.

State lawmakers approved legislation allowing up to five days of remote instruction this school year that can be used in an emergency situation.

Emergency situations

Under additional guidelines that Wake will use, the superintendent will consider the use of remote instruction days only when all banked days and teacher workdays have been exhausted and when scheduled vacation days or additional school days would be the last remaining options.

All Wake schools follow state requirements to have at least 1,025 hours of classroom instruction each school year. Schools can afford to miss up to three days of classes, called banked time, and stay over the 1,025-hour minimum.

Schools then switch to turning teacher workdays into makeup days. Remote instruction would only then be considered before cutting into vacation days such as winter and spring break or extending the end of the school year.