Leaders discuss virtual MECK Pre-K option after starting school year in-person

Leaders to discuss virtual MECK Pre-K option after starting school year in-person

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — County leaders are looking into a virtual option for Mecklenburg County’s youngest students just weeks after starting the school year with in-person learning.

Meck Pre-K started on Sept. 1 with limited capacity in-person classes.

County Commissioner Susan Harden said leaders know some families aren’t comfortable with that so, they will be discussing a virtual option for the program at a meeting on Tuesday evening.

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“There’s been a lot of concern, I’ve raised it, other commissioners have raised it, we know about 1/3 of families will choose not to send their children to in-person learning,” she said. “Rather than not having access to any Pre-K, we feel like the virtual Pre-K is an acceptable option.”

Leaders said they want to know the steps and time frame that would be needed to look into whether Smart Start, a nonprofit partner that runs MECK Pre-K, could successfully make a “valuable and rigorous” virtual program happen and how much it would cost.

“It’s not as good as in person, we’re not making that argument -- we want everyone to be in person some day, but for families who are choosing not to participate in Pre-K, we want them to have access to educational resources even if they are online,” Harden said.

The assistant county manager said Smart Start will provide information on or before Oct. 6 about what it would cost and if they have programs that can offer virtual learning.

Some parents said although they would feel more comfortable with their child learning online, they do believe families should have a choice between virtual learning and in-person instruction

“I do agree that they need to have virtual because my child is a senior but she doesn’t want to go in the classroom, she has asthma, and that’s a big risk for her,” parent Andrea said. “The parents need an option.”

According to the meeting’s agenda, Smart Start will be looking at what the technology costs would be to do this, caregiver participation and the ability to enroll 18 students in each virtual classroom, among other factors.

MECK Pre-K reopens with in-person learning for new school year