DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The new school year could be just a couple of weeks away, but administrators are still trying to settle on the best plan.
On Monday, Dorchester School District Two School Board members heard the from the superintendent on a couple of ways schools could reopen.
Originally, there were three start date options that included extra, non-mandatory days for catch up learn the district calls LEAP days (an acronym for learn, evaluate, analyze, and prepare).
- Option 1:
- LEAP Day: Aug. 10 - 14
- Teachers start: Aug. 17
- Classes start: Aug. 24
- Option 2:
- LEAP Day: Aug. 17 - 21
- Teachers start: Aug. 24
- Classes start: Aug. 31
- Option 3:
- LEAP Day: Aug. 24 - 28
- Teachers start: Aug. 31
- Classes start: Sept. 8
Option one has been taken off the table since the start dates for LEAP days have already passed.
The board is planning on setting a start date Monday, July 20 during a special board meeting. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. and be held in person as well as streamed online.
Board members also heard from Superintended Joseph Pye on a plan to give attendance options to parents. If approved, parents would have two choices; a completely virtual school or a mixed approached based on the current COVID-19 threat level.
The mixed approach includes face-to-face schooling during periods of low threat while gradually moving more online if threat rises. A moderate threat would have some level of in-person and online schooling. As the threat level changes, so too does the form education will take.
“If we went back to school today, we would be in the high threat category and students would be completely online,” Pye said.
Alternatively, the virtual academy would allow students to stay home. However, Pye says the virtual school will be nothing like that of the spring.
“Teachers and students will maintain a similar daily schedule. That seems to be the biggest misunderstanding. This is not that stuff we did in the spring. This is real school,” Pye said.
Attendance will be counted and students will be held accountable for missing class. Pye says they have partnered with Edmentum, Apex Learning and VirtualSC to filling the gaps and make sure eLearning is just as strong as face-to-face.
“The best we are going to be able to do is give people options. We have to give our parents options. We have to give our kids options. We have to give our teachers options and the rest we have to leave up to them,” said Board Member Justin Farnsworth.
If the virtual school is successful, Pye says they play to keep it. Already, around 100 teachers have shown interest in being completely virtual this fall.
However, not every subject or teacher is compatible with remote learning. Pye say the district cannot simply remove those classes or fire those teachers. Instead he suggested they may have to move people around to fill needs as they become apparent.
One such need is in the realm of bussing. Pye says the district is currently short on bus drivers and bus monitors and the proposed school schedules reflects that. This is the proposed schedule:
- Elementary: 7:15 a.m. - 1:45 p.m.
- Middle: 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
- High: 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Pye says they had to cut elementary school down by 30 minutes in order to allow bus drivers time to wipe down the busses between routes.