The commitment to reaching higher is a constant pursuit. It means going beyond being satisfied and not settling for good enough.


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 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. 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. We plan to

  • Align all scheduling decisions with the latest recommendation and guidance from public health officials about best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
  • Avoid scheduling where the burden falls on a classroom teacher to simultaneously create and implement traditional and distance learning for students in the same class at the same time.

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 need to address the following recommendations during the month of July after the July 4th holiday:

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

  • School nurses
  • Supporting and partnering with educator preparation programs
  • Insurance coverage and leave policies
  • Emergency contact information
  • Budget review
  • Contingency leadership planning
  • Review of attendance incentives and penalties
  • Health reporting
  • Job description review

Facilities, transportation and operations (including food services)

  • 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

  • Plan for fall distance learning groups
  • Distance learning sections
  • Live streaming of classes
  • Asynchronous learning

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

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.

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 (including food services)

  • Allocation of Classroom Furniture and Materials

Instruction and Student Services

  • The South Carolina General Assembly is currently debating appropriating a significant portion of funding to allow for five additional days at the start of the 2020-2021 school year for students in grades 4K-8. The additional LEAP days are not intended to address all instructional content missed in the spring of 2020. These days should be used to prepare schools to return to operations.
  • In planning for LEAP days, districts should develop a clear plan to document and communicate activities and desired outcomes.  

Social-emotional check-in/Social Emotional Learning 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

  • Class Coverage due to Staff Absences 
  • Reporting Protocol

Facilities, Transportation and Operations (including food services)

  • Building considerations
  • Transportation
  • Student and staff health protocols
  • COVID-19 case on campus
  • Meal service
  • Face Masks and PPE for Students/Staff
  • Nurses stations and clinical spaces
  • Playgrounds and recess
  • Staff Meetings
  • Staff Workspace

Instruction and student support services

  • Extended Learning

Grading Practices

Ensuring a well rounded education

Find the key excerpts of the recommendations document here.

Find the full recommendations document here.