Thursday, the state’s task force designed to help navigate school procedures during the pandemic released their initial recommendations for the fall.
The report includes three different schedule models dependent on COVID-19 conditions, online and in-person preparation, as well as necessary steps districts must take before the school year begins.
“We’re having to create a new normal,” SC for ED founder Lisa Ellis said. “I feel like the recommendations that they put forth were well studied and well researched and now, the key is to listen to the feedback from teachers and what that is actually going to look like in my classroom.”
The preliminary guidelines on how schools may operate, which schedule they follow and everyday instruction leave districts largely in control of the decisions surrounding new COVID-19 precautions.
Nicole Walker, SC for ED board member, said she wants the task force to create cohesive steps statewide, rather on a district by district basis.
“We really would like to see that there be some measures that we simply say, ‘across the state, this is mandatory,’” Walker said. “You have to have this before you go to the next step.”
Ellis agreed, saying “That was one of the concerns that it was going to be held to local decision making and control, which can lead to a continued gain in inequity across the state.”
Another concern is over the recommendation to allow districts five extra days to the school year, as well as the potential for longer work days to accommodate the increased safety measures.
“If you’re expecting me to stay longer in the day or prepare for in-person and e-learning, I need to compensate for that,” Ellis said. “We want to make sure that there’s fidelity in terms of how practicing teachers are going to have to handle these recommendations
There are some recommendations given by the AccelerateED task force that Ellis and Walker find encouraging, like asking the state to wave standardized testing.
“We think that that will do a lot, especially for issues of equity in our state when we know that there are kids that don’t have access to online learning and materials in parts of our state that other parts have,” Walker said.
Ellis also said she agreed with a waver of attendance and seat time caps.
“The parents and the students need to do what is in the best interest of their health and well being without being held to a requirement that does not make sense for the situation,” Ellis said.
The AccelerateED task force will take public comment on the initial recommendations throughout the week before finalizing or making changes to the report.
SC for ED Statement:
“Our governor continues to insist that the economy of the state demands that schools reopen,
and is going forward with Superintendent Spearman’s recommendation of adding five days to
the school year, despite State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell saying on June 10, “I'm more
concerned about COVID in SC than ever before”. It is once again up to teachers to advocate for
our own health and safety, and for the health and safety of students and families. After
reviewing the AccelerateED recommendations and the Governor’s statements on school
reopening, we are deeply concerned that our leaders are prioritizing economic interests over the
health and well-being of teachers, students and families, especially those in our most vulnerable
communities, where rates of both infection and the worst outcomes are higher. It is vital that we
make our voices heard.”