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Parents & Students

When this pandemic struck, we were all in uncharted territory. We had to quickly absorb and adapt to how the difficulties, challenges and disruptions that are a result of the COVID-19 pandemic would affect every aspect of our lives – including education.

We saw educators across the state rise to the occasion and continue their dedication to educating the students of South Carolina in the face of a global pandemic.

We also saw parents and families respond by digging in, stepping up and creatively improvising, all in the name of providing the best education possible for students during the unknown. Still, no one would argue that there is a replacement for in-person, classroom instruction.

We know the 2020-21 school year poses unique challenges and uncontrollable variables that raise questions we have never before needed to answer. School is not going to look the same regardless of what shape and form of in-class or distance learning model is adopted. Contingencies will need to be made. Acceptance and understanding will need to be universal. 

Only through a collective commitment from everyone in the state, including schools, teachers, parents, families, students, community organizations, and the public/private sectors, will there be success,.

The first thing you should know is that all our focus, and every single one of our priorities, are directed toward protecting the health, safety and wellness of students and staff while giving students the best possible learning experiences that are as close to normal as health and safety allow. The task force

  • Worked closely with the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and referred to the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
  • Examined the science and research related to the coronavirus.
  • Sought advice from a variety of additional external experts.
  • Applied their collective expertise.

Knowing routines will be disrupted, AccelerateED designed recommendations to provide flexibility for school and district decision making that help get students at all levels back to school safely. From here, local school districts will be working to determine the best practices for the health and safety of their students and staff.

Just below we have provided options so the information that’s important to you can be found more easily. This includes a summary that highlights key excerpts from the full plan. In determining how to properly execute a re-opening plan for fall 2020-2021, we understand that these are not perfect solutions for every student, family, teacher or school district. In a pandemic, perfect solutions don’t exist.

Please note that we encourage you to review the full report should you have questions about the summary that highlights key excerpts. The summary is not meant to convey the task force’s fully detailed recommendations.

Phase 1: Early Summer

Districts will use the early summer to establish best practices for the health and safety of the students and staff. Districts should do the following during this phase:

  • Determine the physical enhancements needed to improve safety of the school.
  • Establish a local task force and two-way communication.
  • Survey staff to identify those with conditions that could prevent their return to normal, in-person job duties in fall 2020.
  • Prepare for social, emotional, and mental health needs of students and staff.
  • The SCDE and districts should work throughout the summer to use available resources to provide digital access (devices and broadband) for as many students and staff as possible by the start of the 2020-21 school year.
  • Seek the continuation of wraparound supports for students, such as school meals and access to counseling.
  • Begin or complete the Early Survey of Parent/Family Preferences and the Development of District Policy for Distance Learning Access.

Planning during the early summer will help districts be fully prepared for any scenario that affects the resumption of school in the fall and lead to constructive, effective learning for each and every student.

Find the key excerpts of the recommendations document here.

Find the full recommendations document here.

Phase 2: Mid-Summer

Resuming school operations will require districts to adjust traditional planning. Districts should address the following recommendations during the month of July after the July 4th holiday:

Possible staffing shortages

Review of all emergency drill procedures

Review school calendars

In consultation with staff, families, and community partners, schools may want to re-evaluate the calendar for the entire year. Alterations could include:

  • Start date
  • Extended winter break 
  • Scheduling by semester

Scheduling distance learning practice days

Distance Learning Contingency Plan

Districts should enter the new school year with a clear plan to implement in the event of a return to full distance learning.

Update on planning for reopening

For student, family, and staff clarity, districts should provide an overview of their scheduling and operational plans to their community at least 20 days in advance of the scheduled first day of the 2020-21 school year. 

Human Resources, finance and administration

Facilities, transportation and operations

  • Cleaning protocols
  • Resources for classroom and facility reconfiguration
  • Cleaning and facility preparation
  • Safety plans
  • Review of potential costs of changes to food services
  • Visitation policies
  • Facilities use plan
  • Review of transportation capacity

Instruction and student services

Declaration of intent

By late July, districts should have guidelines in place to determine student eligibility for distance learning. Districts should share these guidelines with families, as well as the district’s safety protocols and anticipated scheduling model for the fall. Based on these items, families should be allowed to apply for distance learning services. Districts should clearly communicate to parents that those applying for full distance learning would only be able to return to in-person instruction if space is available.

Professional learning 

Completion of student evaluations

  • Special Education
  • English learners

Preparing for the social and emotional needs of students

Prevention of bullying and harassment

Planning during the mid-summer will help districts be fully prepared for any scenario that affects the resumption of school in the fall and lead to constructive, effective learning for each and every student.

Find the key excerpts of the recommendations document here.

Find the full recommendations document here.

Phase 3: Two Weeks Prior to Scheduled Start

While there is no way students can gain back everything lost during the final months of the 2019-2020 school year, we can, and should, take steps to ensure students are as prepared as possible for the 2020-21 school year. The focus should be on increasing learning rather than making up lost days. This Pre-Opening Phase should take place about two weeks prior to the scheduled start of the school year. It will be critical for a successful return to school.

While the optimal learning environment for most students would be in-person instruction, we must acknowledge that what’s reality now, may not be the same reality in August, nor the ideal educational model that works best throughout the year.

Districts should use clear communications about safety protocols and procedures during this phase. School districts will work on the following recommendations during phase three:

Back to school events

Human resources, finance and administration

  • Staff training

Facilities, transportation and Operations

  • Allocation of classroom furniture and materials

Instruction and student services

Social-emotional Check-in/Social Emotional Learning Plan (SEL Plan)

Find the key excerpts of the recommendations document here.

Find the full recommendations document here.

Phase Four: Re-opening and 2020-21 School Year

This phase outlines recommended procedures and protocols that should be implemented and followed as students and staff return for the 2020-21 school year. These recommendations should not only be applied at the start, but also throughout the school year.

Districts will be considering the following as schools re-open for the 2020-21 school year:

Preventative measures

Human Resources, finance and administration

Facilities, transportation and operations

  • Face masks and PPE for students/staff
  • Nurses stations and clinical spaces
  • Playgrounds and recess

Instruction and student support services

  • Extended Learning

Grading Practices

Ensuring a well rounded education

Districts will also evaluate models for reopening which include:

Model 1: “Traditional” Scheduling

In this scenario, health guidelines and facility considerations allow for all students and staff to return to a school to open the school year due to low or no spread of COVID-19 in the area and low to no positive cases within the school building. Districts should still make modifications to their scheduling and instructional practices to mitigate continued COVID-19 risks.

Model 2: Hybrid Scheduling

This situation is most likely to be experienced during a period of medium COVID-19 spread. In this scenario, only a portion of staff and students can report to a physical school building.

Model 3: Full Distance Learning

In this scenario, all students and staff are unable to return to a physical school building. Districts must then rely on a full distance learning schedule.

Find the key excerpts of the recommendations document here.

Find the full recommendations document here.