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Guilford County Schools opening 13 learning centers for students without internet

The district said this is not like reopening schools. These centers are for vulnerable children who cannot learn at home due to lack of internet.

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Guilford County Schools will be opening learning centers in 13 schools for students who lack internet access.

Starting Monday, August 31, the centers will open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays during remote learning. 

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Students at the centers can use the district’s high-speed internet capabilities to access digital content and complete assignments. After Labor Day, students at the center will be able to access live, online instruction provided by their teachers.

While the service is free, advanced registration is required.

"It’s on a first come, first serve basis but preference is given to students who do not have broadband connectivity at home," Chief Academic Officer Dr. Whitney Oakley said.

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Parents interested in the Learning Centers may register by using SchoolMint, the district's online application portal found at gcsnc.schoolmint.net. Registration does not guarantee a seat at the Learning Center. 

"We do have a cap at each school that once you add up all the caps, you get to a total of 750 slots so there could be a waitlist," Dr. Whitney Oakley said. "But we are prepared to expand if we fill the 750 seats and we feel like it's successful and we see other pockets of the community that need it, we're prepared to do that."

Parents will receive final notification of Learning Center assignment when selected through the SchoolMint system.

Students should plan on bringing their own devices to the learning centers, which will act similarly to an internet café. Only a limited number of desktop devices are available for student use. Students will need to have their Student ID numbers to login to Canvas, the district’s learning management system.

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"We are asking students to bring in devices for this," Dr. Oakley continued. "Across the board there's only about 300-350 desktops that will be spread across each site for students who are not able to bring a device."

While adult supervision will be provided by the district, the learning centers are not offering child care or any form of individual or group instruction. 

"The adults that will be there will be there to assist kids with technology but they’re not teaching. They are district employees so ACES staff, and teachers assistants who have volunteered. Usually there’s one adult to eight students so we'll try to keep that ratio."

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However, center supervisors will help students access and navigate Canvas and other GCS applications. The centers also will provide breakfast and lunch for students, but there will be no bus transportation.

"This is not intended to be school," Dr. Oakley stated. "We don’t have teachers delivering direct instruction, we have kids on a computer. This is about 30-60 kids per site and we know we have schools with 1,700 kids. This is a lot different than just reopening schools."

To reduce traffic flow in schools, the learning centers are being housed in separate wings or hallways to allow for a single point of entry. Student symptom and temperature checks will be taken prior to a student entering the center. Students who fail either health check will not be allowed to enter.

Social distancing protocols are being followed and cloth face coverings must be worn by all students and staff. If students do not have a cloth face covering, the centers will provide them. 

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"There will be no more than 15 students in one space and they would of course be following those social distancing guidelines."

For more information about district health protocols, click here.

The learning centers are strategically located in neighborhoods and communities where Census data indicates that more than two-thirds of households lack broadband connectivity.

"We know that 20% of our students don't have access to broadband internet and this is not a perfect solution but it is an outreach effort to make sure students who are in these pockets of the community that don't have access to connectivity at least have somewhere to go."

Opening learning centers in these areas will make it easier for students to walk or ride their bicycles to the schools, or for families to make other arrangements. Transportation will not be provided by the district.

The schools that will house the centers are:

• Cone Elementary

• McLeansville Elementary

• Reedy Fork Elementary

• Parkview Elementary

• Sedalia Elementary

• Washington Elementary

• Wiley Elementary

• Eastern Middle

• Jackson Middle

• Southeast Middle

• Andrews High

• Northeast Guilford High

• Southwest Guilford High

Families who have questions about the learning centers may contact Jeff Uhlenberg, Director of Extended Learning, at 336-370-2321, Ext. 5.

Learning Center Registration Directions
Parents interested in the Learning Centers may register by using SchoolMint, the district's online application portal found at gcsnc.schoolmint.net.

New families will need to create an account; families with existing accounts may log in. Make sure to select the registration option, not enrollment.

While all learning centers will be displayed on the registration, only one can be chosen. When the application is complete, a confirmation email or text will be sent immediately. Families with more than one child will need to complete a registration for each child.

Registration does not guarantee a seat at the Learning Center. Parents will receive final notification of Learning Center assignment when selected through the SchoolMint system.

For assistance with Learning Center registration, please contact Student Assignment, 336-370-8303.

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