‘Her education is going to suffer.’ Wake parents fight to change Virtual Academy policy :: WRAL.com

By Michelle Mackonochie, WRAL anchor/reporter Sunday is the deadline for Wake County parents to enroll…

Sunday is the deadline for Wake County parents to enroll their students in Wake County Public School System’s Virtual Academy. But, their policy says once parents do that, students can’t come to school physically.

Parents with special needs children say they’re frustrated, and are trying to change the rule.

“We really don’t want to be stuck in Virtual Academy,” said parent Patrick Winters. “Her education is going to suffer.”

Winters’ daughter Ari is in prekindergarten at Jeffreys Grove Elementary. She has an auto-inflammatory disease that primarily affects her brain and requires full-time assistance when learning.

“She can’t stand up [and] she can’t move between chairs. Somebody has to help her do those things, and you can imagine, when it’s at home it’s either myself or my wife,” said Winters.

To have Ari in the classroom with the help of her teacher would be ideal, according to Winters. But right now, he says he’s not comfortable sending her back to school yet because of the coronavirus pandemic. Winters added that he’s also not comfortable sending his two sons back for in-person learning because of the risk of bringing something home.

“Our kids are lacking a lot … interaction, education and in my daughters’ cause — help. It’s obvious to me that we have no choice at this moment but to put her into Virtual Academy,” said Winters. “I want to have my kids in school. Everybody realizes that education at home is not the same level of quality, and with somebody like my daughter, we cannot provide the same services.”

Winters is trying to convince the school board to change it’s policy.

“I think that this policy, probably unintentionally, is discriminatory towards special needs children and children with disabilities because many of these families are not going to be able to do anything but enroll in Virtual Academy. It’s punishing people that don’t really have a choice,” said Winters.

He added that he reached out to WCPSS school leaders last week and spoke to the assistant superintendent of special needs education. Winters said he was told that right now, the policy cannot change. But, Winters said he plans to keep fighting for his daughter.