JASPER COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - Schools across the country are discussing whether students will be returning to the classroom or continuing to learn online for the fall.
Tuesday night, the Jasper County Board of Education voted to accept the superintendent’s recommendation to start the upcoming school year online.
The Jasper County School District had a tentative plan to give families options on whether to return to school, learn online or do both. However, due to the number of illnesses and deaths in children caused by COVID-19 in South Carolina, that has changed.
“This has really caused us to review our plan of action, because for me, it’s one child too many that we’ve lost,” said Superintendent Dr. Rechel Anderson.
At the district’s school board meeting, Dr. Anderson recommended that board members vote to start the school year online and transition into a hybrid model when it’s safe to do so.
“Safety is the first thing that we talk about daily. We teach them how to exit the building for fire drill. We teach them how to protect themselves for a tornado drill. We have taught them how to react if we had an active shooter drill. But I’m not so sure how we teach from a predator that we can’t see and that we can’t control.”
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster announced Wednesday he wants districts to give parents the option of in-school or virtual learning.
“Today, I am calling on all of the public school districts to submit re-opening plans that give parents the option to send their children back to school five days a week,” Gov. McMaster said. “But let me be clear. Each district. It is the district. That must craft their own re-opening plan.”
The Jasper County superintendent says the number of illnesses, as well as feedback from surveys sent to parents, guided the county in their decision.
“Are providing, as Governor McMaster has asked, choice to our parents. Our choice, though, will be contingent on what is safe on our students and our teachers,” Dr. Anderson said.
The superintendent added in-person learning will only be considered when the district believes it is considered safe to do so.
“I’m not in the business of playing Russian roulette with anyone’s life,” Dr. Anderson said.
The first official day of school will by August 17. But Pre-kindergarten to 8th grade students will begin school August 10 to complete a week of diagnostic testing.
Technology for classes and meals will be distributed to students as well.
Students will work Monday through Thursday and teachers will have conferences with parents on Fridays.
The Boys and Girls Club and the AGAPE Family Life Center have also partnered with the district to provide childcare for families.
Dr. Anderson says this virtual learning experience will not be the same compared to what families dealt with months ago.
“You will have a well-planned model that we will use, rigor will be present and everything that we do and grading will be paramount. We will certainly continue the accountability in the high level of excellence that we expect in all of our classrooms and instruction delivery by all of our teachers,” Dr. Anderson said.
The district will also provide virtual tours of schools along with virtual student and parent technology orientation sessions.
Superintendent Anderson said when it is safe to come back into schools, the virtual option will remain available.