DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Students in Dorchester District Two will head back to school with two options for parents – a virtual academy or a hybrid approach.
The school board unanimously approved the plans on Monday night.
The virtual academy is exactly what it sounds like. It is instruction delivered 100 percent of the time online. Students will still need to be registered with a specific school then they will opt into the program. There is also an extra $20 technology fee in addition to the regular registration fees.
“I have spoken to twelve other districts in the area and they all have technology fees,” Superintendent Joseph Pye said. “Most of them are between $30 and $50.”
The fee covers the cost of insurance for devices. The district is asking anyone taking the online option to commit to it for the entire year, however they are not ruling out a transition at semester if parents want to move their child to the other option.
That other option is more complex. The hybrid model takes three different approaches depending on the current disease activity as defined by DHEC. During periods of low disease activity students will attend school face-to-face, five days a week. During moderate activity, students will spend two days at school (either Monday/Tuesday or Wednesday/Thursday) and three days eLearning. When disease activity is at a high, students will be online five days a week.
Currently, Dorchester County is in the “high” category of disease activity, which means if school started today, everyone would be learning from home.
“Everybody is hoping another two weeks is going to make a difference in the health situation,” Pye said. “We are all holding out for that.”
Pye also said it would take a week or two to seamlessly transition student from various levels in the hybrid model.
The school board also approved the academic calendar and bell schedule. The approved dates include optional LEAP days designed to help students make up for learning loss and to help younger kids learn how to operate distance learning devices and programs.
- LEAP Days: Aug. 24-28
- Teachers Start: Aug. 31
- Classes Start: Sept. 8
The bell schedule is altered slightly to adjust for the need to clean buses between trips.
- Elementary: 7:15 a.m. - 1:45 p.m.
- Middle: 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
- High: 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The online portal for registration opens Aug. 10.
Safety procedures will be in effect whenever possible. Students, staff and visitors will be required to wear masks, the use of lockers and other public areas may be restricted, and lunch will be served in classrooms. However, during low periods of disease activity, social distancing likely will not be able to be accommodated depending on the number of students in each classroom and the space available.
The district did not give specific details on how they plan to address positive cases of coronavirus. They said each case would be assessed on a case by case basis. They also said they would be following DHEC’s guidelines which have not been fully released.