Two-state schools round up ideas for reopening in the fall

Published: Jun. 23, 2020 at 5:46 PM EDT
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EDGEFIELD, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Summer is just getting started, but already local districts are laying out plans for the upcoming school year. But as COVID-19 cases rise, could it mean more distance learning come the fall?

School districts on both sides of the river are weighing big decisions on going back to school.

Just Monday, South Carolina released its recommendations. South Carolina’s task force announced their 92 pages of recommendations, but they’ve left many people with questions.

The full list does include multiple steps and measures, but ultimately the Palmetto State still leaves much up to school districts. And the journey back to school is clearer than it has been.

“While I appreciate the recommendations, we definitely need some strong guidance on what we can and can’t do moving forward,” said Dr. Kevin O’Gorman, Edgefield County school superintendent.

O'Gorman says it's the difference between recommendations and guidelines. Take the school calendar for example: districts can choose a year-round calendar, an extended winter break or scheduling by semester based on their needs.

So, each district needs its own reopening task force.

South Carolina's learning model is more specific:

  • Low spread means traditional schooling with potentially staggered class dismissal.
  • Medium spread means hybrid learning which could be alternate days.
  • High spread means full distance learning.

It's similar to what Georgia recommended several weeks ago, leaving a lot up to local officials.

Edgefield County says its biggest obstacle is internet access for distance learning.

“We do not have fiber optic cable in the county. A lot of folks rely on satellite internet which is not reliable,” O’Gorman said.

In Aiken County, school officials are asking parents for their ideas. Parents are getting emailed surveys with questions like “Do you have internet access?”

School officials say it’s all in an effort to plan for different ways for learning to happen this fall. Parents still may have issues but they’re getting a say.

South Carolina school districts must announce their reopening plans at least 20 days in advance of the first day of school.

On the Georgia side, Richmond County says they are waiting on the data from parent surveys before making decisions. The Columbia County School Board is announcing its plans soon for the upcoming year as well.

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