More than $50M needed for summer academic camps; sport team competitions may be prohibited

More than $50M needed for summer academic camps; sport team competitions may be prohibited

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina’s Superintendent of Education said Tuesday the state will need $50 million to fund camps aimed at helping students who are behind because of the pandemic.

Molly Spearman announced the department has updated the funding request for the summer Academic Recovery Camps. The camps are designed to help students lagging behind in language arts and math. State education officials are looking at a start date for ARC being at the beginning of July, possibly July 6.

Spearman said after surveying districts they believe about 25,000 students will be participating face-to-face. They believe an additional 5,000 students will participate virtually.

The camps are set to be four weeks with students going three and a half hours a day. Transportation and meals will be provided.

Spearman said there are 10 school districts across South Carolina that are well-established with their E-learning and said their first choice would be to offer a virtual summer camp, as opposed to face-to-face. The Department of Education believes if face-to-face summer camps are not possible, about 35,000 students would participate virtually.

Spearman is requesting $50,759,092 for the current projection of ARC, from AccelerateSC and the state legislature. She said she hopes to get a stronger indication, at least informally, on the funding for ARC by the end of this week.

The AccelerateED Task Force has been working tirelessly on recommendations about how best to proceed with summer learning activities and how schools and districts can best restart in the fall. Spearman created the task force, which is composed of educators and administrators representing all aspects of the K-12 public education system.

The task force is working on finalizing their summer recommendations, which will then head, officially, to Superintendent Spearman. Spearman has said she would like the recommendations for fall in the next couple of weeks.

AccelerateED is made up of three subcommittees:

  • Building and Student Services
  • Instruction
  • Operations

Building and Student Services Subcommittee

The main challenge in reopening schools is having students, parents, and staff feel that it is safe to do so. This subcommittee is strongly encouraging districts and schools that do not have one in place to immediately create a reopening team made up of administrators, staff, parents, and students (where age-appropriate).

They recommend a nurse in every school during summer programs. Of the schools that do not already have a full-time nurse, 75 have a part-nurse and 123 have no nurse at all. Spearman estimates each nurse would cost the school district $62,000.

Many school buildings will also need physical enhancements in order to improve health safety.

The Building and Student Services Subcommittee recommends developing cleaning protocols based on the latest Department of Health and Environmental Control guidance and determine if it can be handled by staff or should be a contracted service. Superintendent Spearman has requested $14 million that would go to districts to offset the costs of custodian training and cleaning.

The AccelerateSC task force has recommended $16.7 million for a state PPE stockpile. Superintendent Spearman has requested $159,000 for masks to be distributed statewide.

The subcommittee recommends schools and districts should also consider establishing a mental health crisis response team focused on student and staff mental health and wellness. School staff should have social-emotional support and processing prior to students’ return.

Instructional Subcommittee

The Instructional Subcommittee recommends that districts should continue existing Reading Camps for third graders and summer school programs for middle and high school students.

They believe districts should make every effort to avoid distance learning or resource packets for summer programs, especially for elementary students. This may mean shifting the dates for summer programs until later in the summer in order to increase opportunities to conduct summer learning in face-to-face settings if permitted and appropriate based on current health guidance and staff availability.

The subcommittee said districts should prioritize their focus for summer learning on early learners in the areas of literacy and math. Consider using available recovery funding to expand Reading Camps to include students in grades K–2 using similar procedures to what districts used to identify 3rd grade students for reading camp and based on availability of staff and funding. Consideration for use of summer recovery funding could also be targeted for math instruction in grades K–3.

In an effort to diagnose student-learning loss to the greatest extent possible prior to the 2020–2021 school year, the subcommittee advises districts should consider the following when identifying students that are in greatest need of remediation and support during the summer and at the start of the new school year:

  • K–3
  • Transition grades: 5th to 6th and 8th to 9th
  • English learners
  • Migrant or homeless students
  • Students with IEPs or those recommended for evaluation for eligibility for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Approximately 150,000 student households in South Carolina lack broadband access, and 160,000 students lack access to a computing device. As a result, the SCDE and state leaders should place high priority on using recovery funding to close this digital divide prior to the start of the 2020–21 school year.

In the event of school closures because of COVID-19 during the 2020–2021 school year, it is recommended for each district to develop a distance learning plan to have in place by the start of the 2020–21 school year.

The subcommittee recommends SCDE seek a waiver from all accountability-related testing requirements (federal and state) for the 2020–2021 school year for the purpose of making more time available for learning to help remedy and recover lost time and learning during spring 2020.

Operations Subcommittee

The Operations Subcommittee recommends SCDE provide a per-pupil reimbursement allocation.

Summer camp staff should include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Teacher(s) to support a teacher to student ratio of 12–16:1
  • Instructional aide(s), one per classroom, to reduce the ratio of students to adults
  • Nurse per site
  • Custodian(s)
  • School Counselor
  • Bus Driver(s)
  • Administrator

The subcommittee recommends Professional Development day(s) should be built into the schedule and provided to staff to allow for training in safety, instructional programs, and summer camp planning.

To the extent possible, meals should be consumed in classrooms. If cafeterias allow proper social distancing, schools may utilize them rather than eating in classrooms.

Right now, the task force is waiting on more information from the Department of Health and Environmental Control regarding transportation and buses.

The subcommittee also recommended access control measures to include designated entrances and exits, directional signage for one-way traffic, and isolation rooms. They also want to prevent visitors; If parents must enter past the capture area for things such as conferences they should be screened.

Athletics

The South Carolina High School League envisions a three-phased approach to begin in conjunction with the restarting of group academic activities in districts and/or schools. These guidelines include the use of face masks, social distancing, facility and equipment cleaning protocols, as well as other considerations.

One of the biggest takeaways is the SCHSL is recommending team competition be prohibited.

Their recommendations are below:

  • Maintain minimum physical distancing of six feet between participants at all times. Athletes, Coaches, and Staff should be screened by a health care professional or designated full-time district/school employee.
  • Athletes, Coaches and Staff should have temperature checked by a health care professional or designated full-time district/school employee with a thermometer prior to entry.
  • Face coverings that completely cover the nose and mouth shall be required for everyone.
  • Athletes, Coaches and staff should come dressed for participation.
  • Use of locker rooms, and/or offices shall be prohibited.
  • Avoid personal contact at all times. This includes, but is not limited to: huddles, high-fives, handshaking, fist-bumping, and chest-bumping.
  • Times for starting and ending workouts should be staggered among multiple sports teams to avoid having large numbers of athletes in the same location at the same time.
  • Conditioning and Sports Specific Skill Development may occur if the following conditions are implemented, in addition to the General Guidelines:
  • Group size should be limited to 10 persons per facility including coaches and staff whenever inside of an indoor or outdoor enclosed space.
  • Balls and/or other sports equipment may not be used during the first two weeks or the first 14 days the school/district chooses to begin.
  • Beginning with the third week or the 15th day, social distancing guidelines (6 feet of separation) shall remain in effect when using balls and/or other sports equipment.
  • When using weight rooms, practicing calisthenics, running, or other conditioning training where vigorous exercise occurs, maintain proper spacing from others by working out with 12 feet minimum between each person.

This committee recommends the above guidelines will be in place until further notice. The guidelines for Phase 2 and 3 will supersede the above-mentioned requirements. Phase 2 will include less restrictive measures such as allowing sports to conduct modified competition. Phase 3 will include returning to normal operations.

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