Greenville County Schools Just Released Their Final Plan. Here is What You Need to Know.

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Greenville County Schools just released their 2020/2021 Return to School Parent Resource Guide. This plan is the final draft which is still pending approval.

Greenville County School’s stated primary goals in their final plan are:

  • to “return students in [their] traditional (non-virtual) programs to full-time, in-person instruction as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • to “keep students, employees, and and community safe”
  • that “any decision or recommendation will be based on objective information provided by diverse scientific, public health, and medical experts”
  • Their “return to in-person school will be a stepped process that allows [Greenville County Schools] to analyze trends before moving closer to [their] goal of full-time, in-person instruction.

Our Kidding Around readers that watched our Facebook Live with Derek Lewis on July 14, will likely remember that we learned that this fall is different than last spring in that the goals are to return the children to in-person school and that Greenville County Schools believes that a measured approach will allow them to more successfully bring the children back full-time without compromising safety.

While this is the “final plan”, there is a significant note at the beginning of the documentation.

“This is an outline of the Greenville County Schools Re-Opening Plan in response to COVID-19. Portions of this plan are subject to change if
their implementation as written is not effective or sustainable for our community.

The correlation between COVID spread and Attendance Plans is pending
approval by the South Carolina Department of Education and the Board of Trustees”

Greenville County Schools Virtual Option

  • Consistent, virtual instruction for the entire year
  • Certified GCS teachers
  • All students receive Chromebooks.
  • All students can continue to access their local school supports and activities.
  • Tests will be proctored remotely and instruction will be structured.
  • The deadline for enrolling in the virtual option is July 27th.

Greenville County Schools Traditional Options

The traditional option (in-person instruction) involves three scenarios that will be determined by the district, based on the COVID-19 spread-rate

  • Low Spread:  Traditional In-Person Instruction
  • Medium Spread: Hybrid: In-Person and eLearning
  • High Spread: 100% eLearning or minimal In-Person

When GCS is on 100% eLearning, students will have an experience similar to the Virtual Program, with structured chunks of instruction, proctored tests, and daily interaction with teachers. 

In the hybrid plan, students get the benefit of in-person, small group, intensive instruction one- or two-days a week.  The remainder of the week they will work remotely by watching instructional videos, reading, conducting research, and completing assignments.  Their classroom teacher will be available during his/her planning period if students need to ask a question or get clarification.

Attendance Plan five is 100% in-person learning, with students attending school five days a week. It is possible that during the upcoming year different attendance plans could be in effect for different schools or school levels, based on conditions ranging from the community spread rate for COVID-19 to variable weather conditions across the county.

Students who opt for our traditional school program will follow the district’s Attendance Plan Roadmap to determine in-person attendance at school. Under the GCS Roadmap, Plan 5 reflects a regular school schedule, with five-day-a-week, in-person instruction.  Attendance Plan 1 has ¼ of students in the school buildings each day, Monday through Thursday; Plan 2 has ½ of students in attendance each day Monday through Thursday; On Plan 5 all students are in attendance five days a week.

Social distancing is only possible on Attendance Plans 1 and 2, but a return to Attendance Plan 5 does not necessarily signal a return to “normal.”  All precautions will be followed until further notice.

You can fill out a form to request a change in your student’s color designation.

What Is Greenville’s COVID Spread Right Now and How Is It Measured?

DHEC ranks three data points as high, medium, or low for each county. The data points are how many people are sick per 100,000 people. Whether more or less people are getting sick in the community. How the percentage of people that receive a positive test of those that are tested.

Right now Greenville County registers as high in all three categories.

Didn’t the American Association of Pediatrics Say that Children Should Go Back to School?

Since their original statement recommending that children return to school the AAP has released a follow-up statement to clarify their position:

“Local school leaders, public health experts, educators and parents must be at the center of decisions about how and when to reopen schools, taking into account the spread of COVID-19 in their communities and the capacities of school districts to adapt safety protocols to make in-person learning safe and feasible. For instance, schools in areas with high levels of COVID-19 community spread should not be compelled to reopen against the judgment of local experts. A one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for return to school decisions.”

There Will Be Daily Temperature Checks for School Staff, Visitors, and Symptomatic Students

GCS will strictly adhere to COVID-19 prevention protocols, including daily temperature checks and health screenings for employees and any school visitors allowed beyond the office.  Students who are symptomatic must also be screened.

Social-distancing Will Be Maintained As Much As Possible

  • Students, teachers and other staff must maintain social-distancing (six-feet of physical distance in all directions) throughout the school day.
  • Social-distancing will be required on Attendance Plan 1 and when possible on Plans 2 and 5. 
  • To assist in this effort, class transitions will be staggered.
  • Hallways will be marked with lanes to maintain spacing. Visual cues and reminders will be placed throughout buildings. 
  • Bathroom breaks will be staggered. 
  • Entrances will be monitored to prevent overcrowding.   

Masks Will Be Required When Social Distancing Is Not Possible

  • Masks will be worn by staff and students (grades 2-12) when social-distancing (6 ft.) cannot be maintained. This includes the hallways, bathrooms, entering and leaving the buildings, the bus, and when working in small groups.
  • Students in preK-1st grade will be encouraged to wear masks but not required to.
  • Medical documentation will be required for a medical exemption.
  • Required distancing is only possible in Attendance Plans 1 and 2. 
  • Visual cues will be in place to remind everyone to follow precautions.
  • Masks must be cloth or disposable and must cover nose and mouth securely.
  • Families are expected to provide their children’s masks, but free masks will be available for those on free or reduced meal status.

Meal Procedures Will Vary Depending on the Plan

  • All students will receive free breakfast.
  • In Plan 1 (1 day of in-person school): Students will eat in the cafeteria.
  • In Plan 2 (2 days of in-person school): Students will eat in the cafeteria OR classroom depending  on the layout of the school and other factors.
  • In Plan 5 (5 days of in-person school): Students will eat in their classrooms.
  • Meals will be offered to all eLearning and Virtual students. Note: We believe that this is for students that qualify for free or reduced meals.
  • There will be no guests at lunch.

Disinfecting and Air Quality Protocols Will be Followed

Students and employees can rest assured that all protocols will be followed to keep GCS buildings safe. 

  • Outdoor air ventilation rates have been adjusted for maximum air exchange. 
  • All domestic water systems have been flushed. 
  • Custodians will be equipped with electrostatic sprayers to provide quick and thorough sanitation of large spaces.
  • High-touch areas will be sanitized regularly throughout the day. Desks will be sanitized between occupants. 
  • Hand sanitizer will be provided in all classrooms and throughout  all facilities. 
  • Restroom soap dispensers will be checked and filled regularly.
  • All water fountains will be turned off and no-touch water bottle stations will be installed. Students will be encouraged to bring water bottles. Disposable cups will be provided.

Recess

Children will still have recess and it will be outdoors as much as possible. Students can take off their masks if they are social distancing during recess.

Visitors

Visitors and volunteers will not have access to the interior to the school. They will remain in the office and will be required to wear a mask. If circumstances require the visitor to enter the school, they will be escorted at all times and required to wear a mask.

You will not be allowed to visit your child’s school beyond the office area. This includes PTA and SIC members and will be the policy for all plans including Plan 5.

Buses

  • The buses will be cleaned and disinfected twice a day.
  • Students will wear masks on the bus.
  • Buses will only seat 50% of capacity.
  • Students from the same household may sit together.

Field Trips

All in-person field trips are currently suspended.

Special Education

Students that are in self-contained elementary/middle school classes will meet 2 days a week in both Plan 1 and Plan 2.

Quarantine/Exposure Mandates

Exposure to COVID-19 may result in students and staff being isolated away from school.  GCS will follow DHEC guidelines related to mandated quarantines and student/family notifications.  Parents and employees are required to monitor themselves and their children for COVID-19 symptoms.  Students and staff should be excluded from school if they have:

  • Any one (1) of the following:
    • Fever—or
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing—or
    • Loss of taste or smell—or
    • New or worsening cough
  • Any two (2) of the following:
    • Sore throat
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Chills
    • Fatigue
    • Headache
    • Congestion or runny nose
    • Diarrhea
    • Nausea or vomiting

Greenville County Schools states that they do not have have enough substitute teachers on a normal year to meet their needs. If their staff becomes sick it will impact the safety of students as it will affect student supervision. Staff health must be maintained.

The final plan states that “students or staff need medical documentation
to return to school.” We are not currently sure what medical situations this applies to.

Attendance

There will be no perfect attendance awards this year.

Attendance will be taken by logging into Google classroom for eLearning and Virtual School.

Live Instruction will be recorded for students that miss it.

Extracurricular Activities

The plan includes a number of details on extracurricular activities such as that children should come dressed for the activities. Here is what stood out to us:

  • When possible, masks with mouthpiece slits should be worn in band.
  • Bell covers will be recommended for band instruments, especially indoors.
  • There will be no indoor choral or ensemble singing until there is more information on how to do so safely.
  • Any allowed theater performances (plan 5) will be streamed virtually with no audience.
  • Opening dates for sports have been announced but there will be no extracurricular activities in Plan 0.
  • Athletes will be required to wear a “scarf” when not actively participating.

Pros and Cons of Returning to In-Person Instruction

The final plan also includes a number of pages that outline what virtual and eLearning schedules, expectations, and grading will look like this year.

LEAP Days

Information on LEAP Days was also released today.

Greenville County Schools has set aside the week of August 17-21 for LEAP (Learn Evaluate Analyze Prepare) days. The South Carolina Legislature requires school districts to offer these instruction days to students in response to the COVID-19 school closures. The first official day of school in Greenville County is Monday, August 24.

K-8 graders who plan to attend traditional, in-person school will have the option to attend for ½ day based on the GCS Roadmap Attendance Plan 1.  (7:45-10:15 for elementary students, 8:30-10:45 for middle schoolers.) “Blue” students whose last names begin with the letters A-D will attend on Monday, “red” students (letters E-K) attend Tuesday, “green” students (L-Q) attend Wednesday and “purple” students (R-Z) attend Thursday. 

Students in grades K-8 who sign up for our Virtual Program (deadline July 27) will attend Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday OR Thursday during the afternoon (12:00-2:30 for elementary, 12:30-3:00 for middle). They will also follow our color coded grouping according to their last names.

Friday is a make-up day for any student who was unable to attend on their color-coded day.

During their ½ day of LEAP, students will meet their teachers and the classmates who share their Attendance Plan color grouping and practice social distancing.  They will also be issued/trained/refreshed in the use of the Chromebooks and Google Classroom and take tests that are required by the state to be conducted in person to help determine their academic strengths and weaknesses.

High school students will ONLY pick up their Chromebooks on August 17-20 at their high school following Attendance Plan 1.

Breakfast and lunch will be served each day to students in the K-8 LEAP program.  Students who attend must be enrolled in GCS to attend LEAP.  Transportation will be provided to those who completed their transportation forms by July 15 and requested bus service.  Parents should visit the GCS website or call 355-3111 to learn how to enroll their children if they were not in GCS last year or for information on requesting bus transportation.

In keeping with the original calendar, teachers will still report to school August 10 for teacher work days used to prepare for the new year.

Do you have questions? We will interview Derek Lewis tonight at 8 pm on our Kidding Around Greenville Facebook page. Send your questions to [email protected].

About the Author
Bethany Winston is the owner and editor-in-chief of Kidding Around Greenville & Kidding Around Spartanburg. She enjoys exploring parks, discovering local events, and meeting the people who make Greenville an amazing place to live. You can contact her directly at [email protected].

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