Face-to-face or virtual learning.
That is the choice Greenwood County School District 50 students will have to make before classes resume in the fall as laid out in a fluid reopening plan, Superintendent Steve Glenn announced Tuesday at the board of trustees’ annual retreat at the Genesis Education Center.
“I truly want to be as fluid as I possibly can,” he said. “This is not finalized.”
Regardless of which option students choose, classes will begin on Aug. 18 and attendance will be taken daily.
Glenn said if the state Department of Health and Environmental Control classifies the COVID-19 spread as low or medium then schools can operate traditionally, but if it classifies the spread as high, then schools will move to a two weeks on, two weeks off cohort model.
The model will group students into A and B groups. During the first two weeks, the A group would have face-to-face instruction while the B group does real-time virtual instruction. During the following two weeks, the groups will swap. Cohorts will be grouped by their address, so siblings and other relatives in the household can be together, Glenn said. Again, this model will only be implemented if the state Department of Health and Environmental Control reports that the school or Greenwood County has a high spread of COVID-19 cases.
Glenn said the state Department of Health and Environmental Control will give the district a report every week on whether Greenwood County has low, medium or high COVID-19 spread. He also said he did not know which day of the week the reports would come in, but he doesn’t want them to come on Mondays because the district cannot shut down operations on Tuesday if the report indicated a high spread. If Monday is the day the reports come in, then Glenn said the district will find a way to adapt.
The criteria for the low, medium or high spread is based upon the number of new cases in the prior two weeks per 100,000 people. The low would be from 0-50, the medium would be 51-200 and high would be over 201 cases. Greenwood County spread was high as of the period ending Sunday, Glenn said.
The virtual learning program option, which differs from real-time virtual instruction, will be available to all students but they will have to commit to one semester of the program. The students who choose this option must also have access to their district provided Google Chromebook, to reliable internet, their participation will be expected daily and they must follow South Carolina Regulations regarding mandatory attendance. Orientation will also be conducted by the director of alternative programs.
Elementary school students will use SeeSaw or OdysseyWare, middle school students will use OdysseyWare or VirtualSC and an application process will be required. District teachers will provide academic support — face-to-face or virtually — from 4-6 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday at the Genesis Education Center.
Glenn mentioned how the virtual learning program can be implemented even after COVID-19 because the district got accepted in the third SCETV cohort, so eLearning will be a focus for the administration in terms of providing this type of instruction to students who prefer it over traditional learning.
“We want all our kids to have choices so we can best serve them,” he said.
Students who choose to go virtual will be allowed to do extracurricular activities, Glenn confirmed.
A survey will be emailed out to parents on July 14 after Glenn’s Virtual Town Hall on Facebook Live, which begins at 11 a.m. Parents who have a child attending any of the district’s schools must complete the survey by July 20.
“We want your input,” Glenn said. “The survey is so crucial.”
The district plans to have dedicated teachers for both options. The district doesn’t plan on asking any teacher to do both virtual and traditional instruction, but depending on class and staffing numbers, this may change.
“The numbers are going to drive it all,” Glenn said. “Our plan is to keep it completely separate.”
Teachers may pick up an extra class if they want, and similar to picking up an extra block, they will be compensated for doing so.
Glenn said the district had run through a lot of different scenarios and this plan made the most sense.
“If we want to reach great than that’s truly what we’re going to do,” he said. “Let’s give students that opportunity they need.”
Again, the plan isn’t finalized and the district still has to figure out safety precautions that will be made inside the schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Rodney Smith, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, said face shields and masks have been purchased in case students, teachers and other staff are required to wear them. Busing is another issue that needs to be ironed out, Glenn said. The district will strongly encourage parents who can bring their children to school to do so because it would limit the amount of exposure on the bus and ultimately inside the school.