S.C. education leaders make final plans for expanded summer school programs

By  | 

Friday, May 22, 2020

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -- As students continue e-learning, state education leaders are working on a plan for summer learning programs and how to safely get students back to school.

South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman met with the AccelerateED task force for the fourth time on Thursday afternoon. The start date for these summer programs is looming and, with that in mind, the task force put out their final recommendations during the meeting. The recommendations center around in-person summer programs during the month of July for K-3rd graders who have fallen behind.

"Virtual has been wonderful. Thank goodness for all this great technology, but for those children who are learning to read and they're struggling, they need to be sitting with a great teacher -- maybe six feet apart -- but we need to get them back with a teacher just as soon as possible,” Spearman said.

MORE | COVID-19 pandemic is magnifying South Carolina's 'digital divide'

The main goal of the task force’s recommendations to make sure the return to the classroom is safe.

“We're not going to get a second chance for a first impression, so we want to make sure we do this right,” Alan Walter, Executive Director of Safety and Risk Management and Georgetown County School District member, said.

The recommendations include having PPE for staff and students for situations when social distancing isn’t possible, cleaning supplies, and a full-time nurse at every school.

“We’ve always needed school nurses, but we need them even more now,” Spearman said. “It looks like there are about 123 schools in the state that have no nurse at all.”

The task force also recommends hiring additional tutors and counselors to help students bounce back not only academically but emotionally.

The biggest roadblock to providing these services this summer could be funding. Spearman said that the accelerateSC resource committee recommended providing $13 million of the $115 million the Department of Education requested for these summer programs. It’s an update that came as a shock to many members of the task force.

“For us in Greenville County, that would mean we would have to disinvite about 1,000 students we would plan to serve this summer,” Dr. Scott Turner, the deputy superintendent for Greenville County Schools, said. “So, that’s quite disappointing and everything we’ve done to this point has been in terms of summer programs and trying to pull it off with $13 million instead of $115 million. I’m not sure that’s possible.”

However, Spearman said she’s confident the General Assembly will award more for the programs.

“I feel confident that, if I can give them some better information and give them the confidence, that we can make this happen this summer, that they are going to do everything they can to up that amount,” Spearman said.

Social distancing continues to be a focus with the task force recommending 12 to 16 students per teacher, as well as designated entrances and exits to the school and restricted visitation.

Spearman will be presenting these recommendations to the Senate committee tasked with distributing funds for the state Department of Education next Wednesday. Thursday’s recommendations are considered a final draft.

The task force is set to meet again on Tuesday to approve the recommendations before they are presented to the Senate committee.

Copyright 2020 WIS. All rights reserved.