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Colleton County School District to go virtual-only starting Monday

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 1:07 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 29, 2021 at 6:23 AM EDT
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WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - The Colleton County School District will temporarily move to virtual learning for two weeks because of the continued spread of COVID-19, the first school district in the Lowcountry to make the shift fully this school year.

The transition will take effect Monday and last for at least two weeks, according to district spokesman Sean Gruber.

Gruber said the district made the decision based on the “continued spread of the contagious COVID-19 Delta variant,” the continuous increase in the number of the district’s quarantined staff and students, and “COVID-19′s impact on our available pool of school bus drivers and substitutes.”

The district estimates the return to in-person learning will happen on Sept. 13.

District officials will reassess the impact of COVID-19 on students and staff on Sept. 10 and determine if an extension of the remote learning period will be necessary, he said.

Janice Doyle, whose granddaughter is a fifth grader at Forest Hills Elementary School in Walterboro, told Live 5 News Friday she thinks the move is necessary but hopes the transition will be easier than last year.

“Last year was such confusion and chaos, and the kids didn’t really adjust well,” she said after picking her granddaughter up from school. “I’m hoping that they’ll work out a plan so that the kids can learn and get what they need.”

Doyle described communication last year between students and teachers as “chaos” and said sometimes students didn’t get their questions answered.

Melanie Wade, who recently lost two family members to the virus, agrees communication has been rough, but she doesn’t think virtual learning is the answer.

“My concerns are more with my children’s mental health and the effects this is having on a lot of students’ mental health,” she said. “I don’t think virtual is necessary. I think the school board is kind of jumping on the bandwagon.”

Wade also expressed concerns about the quality of virtual education compared to in-person learning.

“Every single one of our children who were mostly virtual last year or even – they tried to do face-to-face but then had to be virtual too because they kept switching it up – those children are so far behind from where they should be,” she said.

Last year, a shirtless hacker logged into Wade’s son’s Google Meet virtual class and played extremely vulgar and explicit music or a song he was singing that “explained acts that seventh graders don’t need to hear,” she told Live 5 News at the time.

The district said it was a student who used a code to access the class, but Wade believes the hacker was much older.

The district will provide distance learning opportunities and breakfast and lunch opportunities during the closure. Students will be able to use district-issued Chromebooks. Students who do not have a district-issued laptop and needs one should contact their school.

Students without access to internet will be provided with E-Learning packets.

“Students will be expected to complete all assignments at home,” Gruber said. “All athletic activities and afterschool programs will be canceled during the E-Learning/Virtual Learning period.”

Schools will provide meals for pick-up at students’ schools from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday. Then beginning on Sept. 1 and Sept. 3, meal deliveries will begin according to regular bus routes, he said.

Car riders will be able to pick up meals at their child’s school from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sept. 1 and Sept. 3.

Schools and buses will be comprehensively disinfected during this closure period, the district said.

Friday evening, the district announced a special school board meeting set for 6 p.m. Monday. An agenda for the meeting was not immediately available.

Also Friday, the Georgetown County School District announced McDonald Elementary School will temporarily move to e-learning on Monday until Sept. 7. Early College High School in Charleston shifted to virtual learning Friday through Sept. 10.

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