Berkeley County School District ‘weatherproofs’ its class time with virtual learning program

Published: Aug. 16, 2019 at 7:42 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The next time Berkeley County students miss school because of the weather, they may not have to attend class to make it up.

The Berkeley County School district has been selected to pilot the state’s eLearning program.

Instead of going to class on designated make-up days, students will be doing their assignments from home through virtual methods. Most students will be able to use their district-issued Chromebooks.

District officials said this new approach will allow teachers to keep their planned work days on October 25th, March 13th and April 10th.

On those days, teachers will communicate with students virtually or by phone if they have questions about the assignments.

This program is meant to address the missed class time caused by hurricanes or other storms

"In this school district, virtual learning is now becoming a part of the discussion,” said BCSD spokesperson Brian Troutman. “The ability that assignments can be completed remotely, the flexibility it provides not just for the student, but for a teacher, families…I think it's a definitely a modern approach to a problem."

Berkeley County schools have already been using other virtual learning programs for homebound students and students who are suspended or expelled.

However, this will be an experimental year for the district to implement the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee’s eLearning program.

It will mean students will not have to make up missed class time at the end of the school year.

The district will be sending out information to parents about the program.

District officials said accommodations will be made for primary age students, students with special needs, and students who do not have internet service.

If a student cannot complete the work, they have three days to submit it, and they will be marked absent if the work is not completed in that time.

According to a press release, the proviso in the state budget that created the pilot program requires the EOC to report recommendations for how the program can be implemented statewide by June 1, 2020 to the Governor, the General Assembly, the Department of Education and to the State Board of Education.

"The goal of the project is to expand eLearning to more districts throughout the state," stated Melanie Barton, Executive Director of the EOC. "Clearly, there is strong interest in our state for the initiative. Ensuring that districts have the technology, infrastructure and personnel is important; however, the critical factor is making online learning a central part of students' daily learning."

Barton noted that "what makes this program so special is that the idea for using online learning for school make-up days came from district leaders and is being sustained and expanded due to their work and initiative."

For the 2019-20 school year, Year 1 Districts will provide direct support and assistance to the ten districts. The EOC will also work with SC ETV, the State Library, and the South Carolina Department of Education to provide resources and support to these districts.

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