PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Nearly 200 students are on waitlists for in-person learning in Prince George, according to the district’s communications coordinator Michael Campbell. 

Parents were given the option of virtual learning or in-person for the upcoming school year. The district has 10 schools and serves more than 6,000 students.

Now, just a week into the school year, more than 196 students or their parents are deciding virtual learning isn’t working for them.

One of those parents is Stacey Dean, a mom of three teenagers in Prince George schools. “It’s been a challenge,” she told 8News on Monday. Dean recently added one of her daughters to a waitlist for in-person learning. Dean said she originally chose a virtual semester so her kids could be in a “controlled setting” during the pandemic but said the first week didn’t go smoothly at all. 

Stacey Dean’s three children. (Photo contributed by Stacey Dean)

“My daughter, she’s in honors classes. She’s like it’s really hard to get a hold of her teacher’s attention because she’s so focused and zoned in [on her students in person],” she said. “Her and her classmates aren’t getting the support they need as far as virtual,” she said. Teachers are tasked with teaching students in the classroom and online at the same time, which Dean says makes it hard for the virtual kids to engage. 

“I don’t think they [teachers] are getting enough support to be able to cater to the virtual needs as well as in person,” she said. “For her educational advancement, I have to put her in person.” 

Not everyone is having a difficult time. Some Prince George parents say their kids are successfully learning from home. Others argue the semester has just begun and say parents should give teachers some time to work out the kinks. 

Nevertheless, Dean’s daughter is now one of dozens waiting to go back to school in person. “It’s kind of concerning because.. where does she fall in that? Does she become a priority? But what about the children that have waited so long? It’s just a really tough situation,” she said. 

According to Campbell, as of late last week, the waitlists stand as follows:

  • Beazley Elementary (PK-5) – 8 students
  • Harrison Elementary (PK-5) – 18 students
  • North Elementary (PK-5) – 32 students
  • South Elementary (PK-5) -17 students
  • Walton Elementary (PK-5) – 49 students
  • J.E.J. Moore Middle School (6th-7th Grade) – 25 students
  • N.B. Clements Jr. High School (8th-9th Grade) – 11 students
  • Prince George High School (10th-12th Grade) – 37 students

Roughly two weeks before the school year started Prince George stopped accepting students for in-person instructional slots to allow time for scheduling the students already registered for in-person learning. “It was done to ensure we could complete classroom and transportation schedules in such a manner that took physical distancing in classrooms into account, both ensuring there was enough room to allow for six feet of physical distance and that teachers were comfortable with the room configurations,” Campbell said.

According to the district, beginning Friday, September 18th, any open seats will be filled using our waiting list, with priority being given to:

  • Siblings who are currently on 100% virtual/remote instruction with other family members who are registered for in-person instruction
  • Students with disabilities
  • Students who had limited participation since the March 2020 closure
  • Struggling students and/or English as a Second Language (ESL) students

Those students who are admitted for in-person instruction can begin attending on Monday, September 21st.

Some parents signed their children up for in person learning but didn’t show up for school last week. The school division recently shared a message with families that said they would begin filling the open slots from their waiting lists at the end of this week, according to Campbell on Monday. 

“We ask any students who have not been in attendance for in-person instruction at all to attend by Thursday, September 17 in order to remain registered for in-person instruction. If they do not, they will be counted as having not attended in-person. The student would still be able to register for 100% virtual/remote instruction for the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year,” he said.