S.C. superintendent 'cautiously optimistic' face-to-face instruction will resume in fall

Published: May. 27, 2020 at 12:47 PM EDT
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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -- Tens of thousands of young students in South Carolina will be taught in a face-to-face setting during summer learning camps, state Superintendent Molly Spearman said.

These summer camps will be the first test of plans designed by the AccelerateED task force to keep students safe and in school amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Spearman said she is “cautiously optimistic” this will lead to face-to-face instruction in the fall, as well.


During Tuesday’s meeting of the AccelerateED task force, Spearman and other education leaders discussed the summer learning plan she will soon present to state lawmakers.

Spearman will request $50,759,092 in reimbursable funds from the CARES Relief Fund for these “Academic Recovery Camps."

“We have about 30,000 students that have been identified and whose parents have said, ‘Yes, we plan to send our child to the July session,’ so that’s our number one priority right now,” Spearman said. “I feel good about it. I think our teachers will be ready. I know our administrators have been working very hard.”

The plan is for these 30,000 students -- who are in kindergarten through third grade -- to be taught reading and/or math for four weeks, so they can be ready for the requirements of the next grade.

The majority of these students will be taught face-to-face, but virtual options are available, Spearman said.

In the past, summer learning camps have only been for third grade students, but because of the COVID-19 outbreak the state has reached out to other students whose teachers noted they needed extra attention before schools switched to distance learning.

The program will cost $1,766 per student if all the task force’s guidelines are met, according to the budget laid out by Spearman during Tuesday’s meeting.

This budget includes the cost for the following:

• One teacher and one teacher aide per 12 students.

• A nurse and a counselor for every 200 students.

• A custodian for every 250 students.

• One bus driver for every 26 students.

The rest of the funds will go toward reading coaches, administrators, learning materials and food for students.

Spearman will present the plan created by the AccelerateED task force to the General Assembly on Wednesday.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Spearman addressed the plans for the upcoming school year.

Spearman said she hopes to begin working on the guidelines for the fall semester this week, and have a plan in the next couple of weeks.

While she said she is “cautiously optimistic” there will be face-to-face instruction in the fall, she says as health experts continue to learn more about the virus everything is subject to change.

“It’s really still up in the air, but we are going to make every effort possible to have a normal school year,” she told WIS. “Playing, arts -- those are things that really make school a very, very special place. So we are going to do everything we can to maintain as normal a schedule as possible while maintaining the health and safety of our students. So it may have to look very, very different but hopefully there will be something that can go on.”

Some parents are simply wondering when the school year will begin, but that is also unsure.

Spearman said it will depend on the district.

She said she has heard from administrators looking to begin in August and others looking to start after Labor Day.

According to the South Carolina Department of Education, those details and others will be up to local superintendents and school boards.

Copyright 2020 WIS. All rights reserved.

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