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As COVID restrictions ease, local schools work to create a ‘normal’ school year

Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 6:26 PM EDT
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AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Aiken County students no longer have to wear face masks outside. From now on, the district says they’re optional while outdoors on school grounds.

As more restrictions lift and guidelines ease we wanted to check in with some other districts on where they stand for the rest of the school year and come fall.

All three of our major school districts are planning on having school as normal as possible in the fall. But to bounce back from struggles this school year, Richmond County is starting a new program fueled by millions in federal dollars.

“Things appear to be very optimistic,” said Dr. Kenneth Bradshaw, Richmond County Superintendent.

But he knows it’s no secret that this year put many students behind.

“With the CARES funding that we received, as well as the American Rescue Plan funding, we will offer extended learning in grades K-8,” he said.

Extended Learning is a new three-week summer program to help fill in the learning gaps left by the pandemic. It’s only for students in grades K-8 and high school students will have to lean on summer school. District officials say will be a barometer for what the next school year could look like.

“We are really going to focus on literacy and mathematics. That’ll look like a day from about nine to 12, targeted instruction, personalized instruction for students,” Bradshaw said. “The goal is to provide face-to-face instruction for fall 2021.”

But virtual learning may be here to stay. Dr. Bradshaw says they’re planning to offer e-school for about 1,400 students with applications opening up in May.

Some students excelled in that model and the CARES Act money will help the district grow to bring one computer to each student by hopefully the fall.

“The big dream is normalcy. We want our kids and our students to return to school. We want things to be normal,” Bradshaw said.

If you want to sign your kids up for the Extended Learning program, the last day to call or sign up with your school online is Friday. But Richmond County says they will be flexible.

Although Aiken County schools changed their rules with masks, Richmond County and Columbia County say they plan to end the school year with their same policies in place.

We also asked all three districts about teacher vaccinations. Both Richmond and Columbia counties say they’re not releasing those numbers. But Aiken County tells us they’ve had more than 1,000 staff get their first dose at their school-run clinics. There’s no record on how many got a shot outside of those clinics.

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