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Here’s the plan for S.C. kids to return to school

Published: Jun. 23, 2020 at 7:14 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Department of Education has announced its final recommendations for returning to school this fall.

State Superintendent Molly Spearman says parents will be able to choose if their child returns to in-person learning, and each district will have a plan in place for those parents who feel uncomfortable sending their children back inside a classroom.

Spearman says school districts will be sending out surveys to parents asking which learning plan works best for their family.

“Some of you parents may have even received surveys from your schools asking your intentions for your children in the fall. Please respond to those. They will help in addressing the social and emotional needs of staff and students. COVID-19 has placed extreme stress on everyone, and school communities will need to be prepared to offer support services,” Spearman said at a news conference Monday.

“In our report, we list low, medium, high, and many states have used that same model. We are working now to get more into the details on how that should operate. And we’ll be working and communicating with our local district superintendents and the chairs of their school boards for them to make the safest and best decision based on that data,” Spearman explained.

The recommended guidelines also suggest districts remove any absence penalties for students or teachers that could cause them to come to school even if they aren’t feeling well.

As districts work to figure out scheduling for the next school year, the state does not want the burden to fall on teachers to have to prepare in-person and distance learning plans for students in the same class.

“Teachers should not have to do both. They should not have to prepare for lessons for the children in their class and then turn around and prepare lessons for virtual. So, that’s why we’re trying to give as much support as we can by developing content at the agency that can be used virtually by offering more virtual programs, and districts are doing the same thing and offering their own virtual schools,” said Spearman.

The Department of Education will request a waiver for state and federal tests for the next school year. Spearman says she’s heard the cries from parents and teachers, and she agrees that waiving testing will allow more time for instruction and create less anxiety for students and teachers.

The Department of Education is also asking the General Assembly to create grants and funds that will give school districts the money they need to implement the recommended safety measures.

Each school district is asked to report its learning plan to the Department of Education 20 days before the start of the school year. However, the AccelerateED task force did not list has a date when parents should be notified of those plans.

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