CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County schools are welcoming back students this week in person to meet with their teachers, pick up technology, and take exams.
It’s part of the school district’s week-long LEAP program. That acronym stands for learn, evaluate, analyze, and prepare.
James Simons Montessori in downtown Charleston is one of the district’s 87 schools that has reopened. It’s set to have 130 of its 400 students in person on Sept. 8 while the others start the year virtually. But this week, all students have the opportunity to come back and meet their teacher.
Groups of three to five students are able to come in, sign out technology, and learn about new software for virtual learning, Principal Chris Ryan said.
Some children also take assessments and pick up other supplies for at-home learning.
The younger students spend up to 40 minutes inside the school and the older ones clock out after about an hour and a half. Teacher Adrienne Jones sees this time as beneficial.
“They’ve been taking it in stride,” Jones said. “They’re probably only used to wearing a mask for 30 minutes going into a store, so coming into the school and wearing it a little bit longer gives them an adjustment period which they need to be able to come into the school next week and wear it for a longer period of time.”
“I think the hardest thing is they all get ready to give you a hug. We can’t hug, but we can air hug,” teacher Stacie Mandrell said. “They’re excited, but I think there’s a little bit of nervousness.”
The week is also a time for students, parents, and teachers to get used to the new protocols which include increased cleaning, mask requirements, and social distancing at all times.
“About 20-percent of the school is fogged or misted every night. Our surfaces are cleaned throughout the day,” Ryan said. “Our day porters will go in and clean the bathrooms in the morning and afternoon.”
“We have masks and the plexiglass,” Mandrell said. “There are so many things in place to be as safe as we can when kids come to school.”
The Montessori program is very hands on, so the school doesn’t want to change that, Ryan said. Instead, they just changed how they do it.
“Every child has an opportunity to touch and use as many materials as possible,” Ryan said. “When they’re finished with them in the morning, they’ll go to a holding place where they’ll be cleaned and reshelved, so there’s not sharing of any supplies at all.”
The school district has three more LEAP days this week ahead of its first day of school next Tuesday.