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'It's the worst of times, also the best of times' | Guilford County Schools reacts to shutdown extension

"We have plans to ramp up what we offer online and provide more guidance for our teachers, students and our parents," Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras said.

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Guilford County Schools (GCS) will remain closed for students through May 15 in accordance with Governor Roy Cooper’s executive order. 

RELATED: LIVE BLOG | Governor Cooper says schools will be closed until May 15

District leaders say they will ramp up online learning. This includes more live lessons.

"We have plans to ramp up what we offer online and provide more guidance for our teachers, students and our parents," Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras said.

GCS teachers have posted lessons, assignments, videos and high-quality digital resources that students can access online via Canvas, the district’s learning management system. Student log-on information, including a how-to video for parents, has been posted on the district website

"Starting on Monday we will provide parents and teachers with instructional schedules and daily learning times."

GCS has teamed up with Guilford Education Alliance (GEA) and other community partners to help bridge the digital divide that exists in Guilford County, where about 65.7% of district students qualify for free, or reduced-price meals, a common indicator of poverty.

"So far, GCS and GEA have distributed more than 4,000 laptops."

On Monday, community volunteers joined with school employees and school resource officers to start delivering free refurbished laptops to students identified by schools as lacking devices that support online learning. Generous community donations paid for the devices, which were provided by GEA in partnership with a local non-profit organization, Technology for the Future.

Technology for the Future issued a challenge of up to $700,000 to bring the cost of reconditioned laptops down to $70 each. Guilford Education Alliance is raising an additional $700,000 to purchase up to 10,000 laptops for students. At present GEA has raised $350,000.  GCS schools will distribute more than 700 devices today and tomorrow, with even more arriving soon. 

“We’re finding that while many of our students and families may have access to the internet, they may have it through cellphones that don’t support online learning well,” said Superintendent Contreras. The district also is seeking ways to expand hotspots at more schools, so students can access the internet from school parking lots.

“We’re doing what we can, but internet access is something that GCS can’t solve on its own,” said Contreras, noting that Chiefs for Change, a national non-profit organization of top-ranking district and state education leaders of which she is a member, is granting GCS $125,000 to help address the district’s technology needs.

“Without equity of access, we risk doing great harm to our most vulnerable students and families,” said Contreras. “In addition to federal and state funding for hardware and connectivity, we need telecommunications companies to move quickly to expand high-speed internet connection.”

Parents/guardians of students who need devices and support should contact their children’s schools. 

GCS also plans to continue providing breakfast and lunch for students who live in poverty via its 40 “Grab and Go” sites at district schools and 48 satellite sites in neighborhoods and communities. In addition, the district has delivered meals to students living in homeless shelters, motels and other transitional housing.

On Monday, GCS also started providing child care for the school-aged children (ages 5 to 12) of local hospital workers. Currently, Shadybrook Elementary in High Point and Irving Park Elementary in Greensboro are providing services from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. GCS employees are staffing the centers, along with county nurses. The centers are not open to the public. GCS is coordinating childcare services with Guilford County Emergency Management and will open other sites as needed. 

“We have to do our part to fight the coronavirus pandemic,” said Contreras. “Our experiences during the past two weeks show our interconnected all of us are, and how important roles each of us – schools, government, non-profits, philanthropic organizations, houses of worship and volunteers – play in our communities. We need to do everything we can to support all of those serving on the front lines of this pandemic.” 

In need of WiFi for virtual learning?

GCS knows internet connectivity remains a problem. They've come up with a solution.

Students can access the internet from 8 school parking lots.

Hotspot locations:

1. Herbin Metz education center on the Hairston Campus

2. Hunter Elementary

3. Jamestown Middle 

4. Christine Joyner Greene Education Center on the Ragsdale High School campus

5. McNaire Elementary 

6. Simkins Elementary 

7. Western Guilford Middle

8. Eastern Guilford High 

Dr. Contreras encourages all to turn this negative situation into a positive by reading more, trying new things, and spending time with family.

"it's the worst of times also the best times, lets continue to pray for one another, we will get through this."