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CHCCS works to get students online, discusses in-person learning centers

92 students complete their online work in person at learning centers run by CHCCS and the YMCA

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Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA opened learning centers Sept. 1 to provide school-day care and support for up to 100 elementary students.

The CHCCS Board of Education met Thursday to discuss these learning centers, the end of a professional development grant and survey results from students’ families. 

Jessica O'Donovan, assistant superintendent for instructional services, said schools in the district have connected successfully with a majority of students, but not 100 percent. 

At least two students who came to the new CHCCS-YMCA learning centers had not logged in to complete any of their assignments since school had started two weeks prior, O’Donovan said. She said learning centers aim to fix that disconnect and help students with dysfunctional devices or trouble logging in.

As of Friday, 92 students had been coming masked each day to complete their remote schoolwork: 40 at the Town of Chapel Hill Community Center and 52 at the Hargraves Center, where spots for eight more students remain. 

“It’s really off to a terrific start," O’Donovan said. "I expected a lot more confusion on the first day."

Students in the centers are spread out, organized into pods of 10 and supervised by adult group leaders. About 75 percent of the students arrive on the bus, O’Donovan said. Then they eat breakfast, attend their live online classes, take breaks, eat lunch, have 30 minutes of physical activity and complete their online assignments.

These centers comprise CHCCS’ only face-to-face learning this semester. O’Donovan said the district is looking at opening a third site in partnership with the YMCA and local churches. 

The existing centers serve 12 of 19 “priority academic segments,” or neighborhoods where the end-of-year assessment average falls below a certain point, O’Donovan said. She said a new center would aim to support the remaining seven neighborhoods and provide more effective, targeted support for the district’s students. 

“In times like these, it can feel so overwhelming,” O’Donovan said. “But because of the collaboration … it's a real coming together of the community on behalf of our students and families.”

Jeff Nash, public information officer for CHCCS, presented the results of a “Community Check Up” survey sent to district families. Out of over 3,000 responses, 87 percent of English-speaking respondents said their children had access to reliable high-speed internet, while about 55 percent of Spanish-speaking respondents said their children had reliable high-speed access. Most remaining students reported reliable but slow internet access.

One percent of the 2,704 English-speaking respondents and five percent of the 318 Spanish-speaking respondents said their children did not have reliable internet access. Nash expressed concern for these students.

"There's more to do," Nash said. 

Although the survey was available in nine languages, seven of those languages amounted to just 23 responses. Board members said they wanted to know who the district was not hearing from.

Project ADVANCE, a grant-funded professional development program, wrapped up at the end of June. It paid over $900,000 in incentives to 351 teachers. Board members said they will be looking into whether the program enhanced students’ learning and whether staff expect to continue depending on income from the incentives. 

Board member Rani Dasi said there are a lot of ways to spend $1 million. 

“Certainly we want to make sure we’re doing the right thing for our staff — all of our staff — and our students,” she said.

Interim Superintendent Jim Causby concluded the meeting by announcing that playgrounds will open soon, after district review, with Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement of Phase 2.5.


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