SUMTER, S.C. (WIS) - Before students in Sumter School District return to school on August 28, WIS-TV got a first look inside on how their schools will operate.
District leaders say because Sumter is currently considered a “high risk” community, all students will start out the year online. They’re prepared to switch to a hybrid model, which will include some in-person instruction once it’s safe to do so.
According to the district website, school officials will assess data from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) every two weeks to determine when it’s safe to make that switch.
Once that happens, students will notice plenty of changes. WIS-TV was permitted inside Alice Drive Middle School in Sumter this week. Inside, some desks will be off limits for social distancing purposes, new sanitizing stations, plus new markers in the hallway to make sure it doesn’t get too crowded.
Teachers and administrators have already returned to classrooms preparing for virtual instruction and they want to make sure families are prepared, too.
“If a family does not have a Chromebook and they need one, they need to call their school and come pick one up. We have those available as we speak. We want everybody to have access,” said Dr. Brenda Hafner, chief of schools in the Sumter School District.
She also addressed the issue of limited internet access saying, “As you know, there are some remote areas of the district where we worry about people having access and so we’re trying to get MIFI cards for them to have access in their areas or we’re going to commute buses out to different neighborhoods and communities where they can drive up and use the WIFI on the bus and download any materials that they may need.”
Eric Masaitis is the assistant principal of Alice Drive Middle School. He says they have decided to close off some of the desks rather than removing them completely so that it still resembles your typical classroom, but they don’t anticipate having class sizes any larger than 12 students. Those classrooms will be cleaned daily with an electrostatic sprayer.
Masaitis is also hoping the new arrows in the hallway will help the school avoid a situation like the one in Georgia, where we saw students packed in a school hallway in a picture that went viral.
“We always monitor our hallways, especially it being a middle school. Our teachers are always monitoring the hallways, but especially during the pandemic now we are going to stagger our release,” said Masaitis who added that different grades will be released at different times and, “That’s going to keep the numbers down in the hallway and just the way that we have the hybrid set up, we’re not going to get all the students back here in the building all at once, right away. So, that will allow us to keep numbers in manageable levels not only in the classrooms but in the hallway.”
Besides the new arrows in the hallways, there’s plenty of other signage reminding students and staff that face coverings are required while inside the building.
Also, Alice Drive students will be eating their meals inside their classrooms, including both breakfast and lunch.
To see the full reopening plan for the Sumter School District click here.