South Carolina State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman announced the approval of a total of 67 school district reopening plans at this report, as well as a mandatory mask requirement.
Two residential Governor’s Schools were also approved, both returning with hybrid, face-to-face, and virtual options. Spearman also mandated a face mask requirement for students and staff in all South Carolina public school facilities, following a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) is purchasing and providing five cloth face masks for every teacher, bus driver, custodian, and food service worker. Face masks have already been purchased for students and staff taking part in Academy Recovery Camps, a four-week camp over the summer to help students catch up on coursework. Masks will also be readily available on school buses, as masks must also be worn on board.
The SCDE has also worked with the state’s Department of Administration and Emergency Management Division to place large orders for masks, face shields, gowns, gloves, “flexiglass,” hand sanitizer, and other protective equipment for school districts.
“As we prepare to welcome students and teachers back to South Carolina classrooms for face-to-face instruction, it is imperative that we implement measures that are proven to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” said Spearman. “Requiring the use of face masks for everyone in our school buildings in combination with other mitigation tactics will help ensure that we have safe learning environments even when optimal social distancing is not feasible.”
The SCDE is requiring five additional days of face-to-face assessment at the start of the 2020-2021 school year for all students in grades four-year-old kindergarten through eighth grade. The face mask requirement will begin when students and staff return for Learn, Evaluate, Analyze, and Prepare (LEAP) added instructional days.
The LEAP days should consist of clear plans to document activities and desired outcomes. These activities may include revisiting prior content and skills, diagnostic activities, data analysis, social and emotional preparation, review of individual education programs, establishing routine and procedures, and professional development.
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Meanwhile, the approved school districts must offer students the option of returning to campus face-to-face in small groups or 100-percent virtual learning during the start of the 2020-2021 school year, which is scheduled to open on Sept. 8. The plans must also include a timeframe for eventually returning to a full five-day, face-to-face instruction model as well as the establishment of how quality instruction of a broad range of student services will be provided.
“Unlike the emergency remote learning that was required during COVID-19 school closures, students participating in virtual options will have a daily instructional schedule, receive frequent teacher feedback, and face high standards for earning passing grades,” the SCDE said in a statement.
The SCDE is in the process of reviewing the remaining plans that have been submitted to the agency and hope to have all school district plans approved by next week.