More than 200 teachers have been let go from online classes they lead for students across North Carolina. The layoffs apply only to the fall semester.
The layoffs could limit options for about 7,300 students around the state who had signed up to take classes through North Carolina’s Virtual Public School, the News & Observer reports. The teacher layoffs mean those students may not be able to take the online classes that expand the offerings at their regular schools.
For instance, Jeni Day of Union County is a science teacher who is scheduled to teach an online course in forensic science starting August 26.
"Forensic science is an elective that is not often taught in high schools, due to scheduling and cost," she said. "This allows us to reach students from across the state, especially in rural areas where curriculum and programming isn’t necessarily as diverse."
Unlike most public school teachers, Virtual Public School teachers are considered temporary employees. Some do that work in addition to traditional teaching jobs. For others the virtual school is their only employer. Last week 220 of the online faculty who taught during the summer were told state law requires them to take a 31-day break in their temporary employment. That means they can’t teach in the fall.
The state Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education have asked lawmakers to pass an amendment that would exempt the online teachers from this requirement, saying there’s an urgent need to keep them working this fall. The education leaders say they’ll look at long-term solutions after that.
Day, the science teacher, says she hopes to get answers about why this snarl cropped up so close to the start of school. Because she is also about to start a full-time teaching job at Butler High, the loss of virtual school pay won’t be devastating to her family. But she says many of her colleagues stand to lose all their income for a semester.
"My deepest hope is that they remedy the situation and that they are sending these teachers back to work," Day said. "That’s what the teachers want to do: We want to help kids, we want to work, we want to be able to earn a living."
The News and Observer reports that if lawmakers don’t act, the layoffs will require canceling or reducing enrollment in half of the school’s 150 fall courses.