District 55 board approves back to school plan

District 55 Superintendent Ameca Thomas

After a lengthy work session Tuesday, the Board of Trustees of Laurens County School District 55 met in a special called board meeting and voted to support the re-opening plans presented by Superintendent Ameca Thomas. They also took action to approve a new calendar that moves the first day of school for students to September 8, 2020 (the day after Labor Day).

“The additional time prior to the start of school gives us the best chance of returning to face-to-face instruction for five (5) days each week,” said Thomas. Of course, traditional face-to-face instruction five days a week, though preferred, is only one of three re-opening scenarios possible for students who have not chosen the Laurens County Virtual Academy option offered by LCSD 55 in collaboration with Laurens County School District 56.

The Board of Trustees actually approved three options for re-opening depending on the status of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Laurens County. Currently, Laurens County is in a “high” risk zone according to DHEC. If school were to start today, it would be an eLearning environment for all students (Red Days). If the risk of COVID-19 is identified as “moderate,” students would attend school face-to-face two days each week and be involved in eLearning for the remainder of the week (Yellow Days). Students would be split into “green” and “gold” groups based on the first letter of their last name to determine the days they would actually attend school (either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday with all students doing eLearning on Wednesday).

Only when DHEC determines the risk level in Laurens County is “low” would the schools open for full face-to-face instruction five days per week (Green Days).

“Because this situation is very fluid, we have to be prepared for any one of these three scenarios and it may change from week-to-week based on developments with the pandemic,” Thomas said. “We will receive a report from DHEC each Friday that will determine the status for school the following week.”

Students who sign up for the Laurens County Virtual Academy (LCVA) will not have the same uncertainty. Registration for LCVA remains open through this Friday.

Thomas reassured the board that any eLearning required in the 2020-2021 school year will not be the same as what parents saw in the spring. All eLearning will be taught by a regular LCSD 55 teacher, there will be live-streamed virtual instruction provided (and recorded for later viewing), and a parent-teacher partnership will help maintain open lines of communication. Teachers will not be working from home. Instead, they will be on their campuses providing eLearning from their classrooms when students are not able to be present.

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