Durham Public Schools plans to roll out new online academy :: WRAL.com


– In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Durham Public School system is rolling out a new online academy for the upcoming school year.

The school system still plans how to handle in-person classes – if any. Enrollment details are still being worked out as the city awaits the governor’s next steps for reopening.

The Durham Public School Foundation and other community organizations have been working to find unique ways to equip students with appropriate technology, allowing them equal access to online education and classes during the pandemic.

Regardless of how the details unfold, the school system is gearing up for a school year like no other.

Durham pupils have completed this past school year online – logging on for distance learning, tutoring and homework. In anticipation of fall, many of them may not be sitting in a classroom for a long time.

“We know some families are going to be concerned about health and COVID in the fall. We also know that some families simply prefer a flexible online option, and some learners thrive in that kind of environment,” said Matthew Hickson, Durham Public Schools first-ever Director of Online Learning.

Schools will soon launch the IGNITE online academy. Along with this digital academy, Hickson said, comes an effort to provide nearly 20,000 laptops and hotspot devices to help students access this new digital curriculum.

“We want to be able to deliver something that trains 21st century leaders and gives us that personalized environment with Durham teachers here at Durham Public School,” he said.

The IGNITE platform is currently a work in progress, but Hickson said it would be a second option for concerned parents. It will include personalized lessons built by Durham teachers and offer creative ways to keep students engaged.

Muriel Smith, Program Director for Student U, said: “Technology is helpful, but it’s never the same as being in person. I’m still curious – are students going to be very tired of being on Zoom?”

Organizations like Student U have helped many students get Chrome books and other tools over the past few weeks.

Smith said she hopes the current investment in online learning is of interest to everyone involved. She thinks schools and community organizations will have to learn to adapt to how the pandemic is changing current approaches to education.

“Workplaces and employers want students who are ready to communicate, collaborate and create in a digital environment. I’m here to help us figure out how we can do it at the highest level,” Hickson said.

Durham Public Schools plans to release a full statement on the online program, how it will work and what parents can expect early next week.

There is no lottery or registration process. Parents can register their students with an interest form which is expected to be released on Monday.


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