COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - At a Richland District Two School Board meeting tonight the Reopening Schools Task Force presented its final plan for reopening schools.
Task Force Chair and Assistant Superintendent Dr. James Ann Shely presented the plan that has three phases of reopening based on AccelerateEd recommendations, and the DHEC assessment of the COVID-19 outbreak across the district.
Phase One is a fully virtual program with grades PK-12 participating in e-learning. The phase one would remain in effect while Richland County remains classified as a high level of coronavirus outbreak by DHEC.
Phase Two is a mixture of e-learning, a hybrid schedule, as well as traditional classroom-style learning. For grades PK-5, students will have the option of eLearning or classroom communities. For grades 6-12, students will have the option of eLearning, and a hybrid option in which students alternate between in-person classes for part of the week, and virtual for the other part.
In Phase Three, students in grades PK-12 will have the option of e-learning or traditional learning at schools.
“We as a family, a school family and a community are in this arena together, and we stand ready to get our face marred with dust, sweat, blood, and tears to ensure that all of our students, all of our teachers, all of our parents, and all members of our community are being taken care of to our god-given best ability,” Dr. Baron Davis, the Richland Two Superintendent, said at the end of the meeting.
The board also went over what the e-learning plan will look like for parents who opt for a virtual option for the 2020-2021 school year. The program is called the R2eSchool Program and states that students enrolled will have instructors from their zoned or assigned school. Families who enroll in this program are committed for the duration of the school year and students will have a prescribed schedule with mandatory attendance expectations.
When students and teachers return to the classroom in Phase 2 and 3, the board will be implementing various safety precautions. This includes requiring face coverings, maintain social distancing, sanitizing frequently, modifications for transportation and food service, as well as following DHEC protocol with positive cases and contacts.
Many parents and teachers are excited about District Two’s decision to start with virtual e-learning. On Tuesday, dozens of cars filled with parents, teachers, and students came out to the Richland Two Innovation Center.
SC for ED hosted a motorcade in which the teachers and parents honked their horns and held up signs in a show of support. Parents and teachers said today’s motorcade is one way of saying thank you to the school board.
“Thank you for being transparent with us, thank you for keeping us in the loop,” Nozsa Tinsley, Richland 2 Center for Inquiry Teacher, said.
“I’ve never been more proud having been a student in this district and now as an educator in this district,” Arleigh West, a Richland Two Teacher, said
West has been teaching in Richland Two for the last 13 years.
“I really feel like social distancing is not feasibly, I like to say hugs snot and all, it’s just not going to feasible,” West said.
She feels virtual learning is the only option to keep not only teachers safe but also students, like her daughter.
“She’s not going to have her be a fatal statistic, a number,” West said
A survey conducted by the Richland Two School board found that 69% of elementary parents and 73% of teachers say they are uncomfortable returning to in-person learning. West said many teachers in districts across the state are facing difficult decisions when it comes to next year.
“My heart breaks for them because I know it’s a matter of having a career and not having one, and not having an income,” West said.