We have had a number of questions come in from readers about Greenville County School this fall. In this article, we are compiling these questions with the answers that we have received. Please understand that due to the large amount of information and changing nature of information, it’s best to double check with your school for any questions that greatly affect your family.
This information is taken from the Return to School page on the GCS website, GCS Final Plan, our two Facebook Lives with Derek Lewis (GCS School Board Member), our Facebook Live with GCS’ Jeff McCoy, and Facebook Lives on the GCS Facebook page. Derek Lewis has also sent us some answers that came from questions during our live which are marked with his name.
Besides the answers stated here, this story on a summary of the August 4, 2020 GCS School Board meeting has other details on current trends, sports, masks, and possible school closures.
About Public School Schedules
Governor McMaster called on public schools to open 5-days a week with a 100% virtual option for those concerned with safety, why are some school districts still not opening 5-days?
While McMaster’s statement was worded strongly it was not a mandate. The SC Department of Education approves school plans and while they have stated that they will only approve plans with an in-person option for families, they are approving plans that include a combination of eLearning, hybrid, and traditional school based on COVID spread. These types of school plans are based on the SC AccelerateED Task Force Recommendations which were created based on local feedback from parents and teachers and consultation with educational and health experts. McMaster has since on several occasions voiced support for the Department of Education and State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman.
What is GCS’s position on 5-day school?
Greenville County Schools has maintained a position that advocates for returning to 5-day school as soon as it’s safe to do so but not in a way that compromises the safety of students and staff. Greenville County Schools also released a statement in response to the Governor expressing concern about his position.
Can I make a change in school plan for public school after the school year begins?
GCS has stated that your family’s choice for virtual or in-person school is for the entire school year. They have also clarified that this policy does not mean that switches will not be considered if there is space in the other program or for special circumstances.
Families should be aware that GCS is allocating teachers and resources based on current enrollment. Decisions such as enrolling your child after the start of school, removing your child from school, and changing programs can affect funding and resources on the school level.
Will there be any scenarios where schools will be on a different schedule (for instance can a school choose to open based on their local COVID spread if other schools are closed)?
GCS will decide for the entire district what schedule will be implemented. The only situation outside of the GCS decision would be if a COVID outbreak inside a particular school mandated a temporary closure. These types of closures happen for other diseases as well.
If my child is on the one day a week schedule, and assigned to Monday- and Monday is a school holiday, will I make that day up, or is it just bad luck for me?
Derek Lewis (GCS School Board Member): Yes, you will miss that week. We considered changing our days of attendance to Tuesday-Friday because of holidays, but most companies in our area with shift work are based on four 10-hour days work Mon-Thurs, so it was better for working parents. When we changed the calendar, we moved one teacher workday from a Monday to a Friday to better balance this issue.
Will there be orientation for K5, 6th, or 9th graders this year?
GCS has stated that there will be virtual orientations for these grades. Also, K5 and 6th graders have an option for an in-person L.E.A.P. day whether they are in in-person or virtual school.
About In-Person School
For the foreseeable future, will playground equipment be closed?
Derek Lewis: I believe they were closed by DHEC and not by the schools.
Playground equipment will not be used at this time due to the inability to clean it between use by different children.
How will students be at individual desks when many classes had tables?
GCS has a large warehouse with equipment such as desks that is available for use. Desk room furniture is not an issue.
For more information on what school classrooms will look like see our article with photos.
Will children and teachers be wearing masks all day?
No, masks will only be required when social distancing (6 feet) is not possible such as on the bus, during transitions, and in the bathrooms. Masks may be required at recess if social distancing isn’t possible.
Will GCS provide cleaning supplies or will parents be asked to donate?
Yes, GCS will provide all cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and necessary PPE. This includes masks for children that forget their masks or do not have masks. Parents are asked to provide masks for their children if they can do so.
How much notice will GCS give if the schedules change?
At least five days’ notice. GCS will communicate in the ways they have before – text, phone, email, and social media.
What will e-learning look like and will it be different from the spring?
Jeff McCoy, GCS: We are a lot more prepared right now than we were in the spring. If we’re at 100% e-learning, it will look a lot like the virtual program and teachers can do live or recorded lessons online. If we are attending one or two days in-person a week, classes will be smaller and teachers will be able to personalize a lot of that instruction and be prepared to send home work with them. GCS has worked all summer to build instructional videos and activities so teachers can post those throughout the week and check in with students during the planning period.
How many students will be at in-person classes?
Jeff McCoy: On the one day a week attendance, it’s only 5 to 6 six students. For twice a week in-person, around 15 kids will likely attend.
Will there be field trips – virtual or otherwise?
Jeff McCoy: There will be virtual field trips. Hopefully schedules will be ready to go by August 7. No in-person field trips are planned.
Will students be able to get 1-on-1 help?
Jeff McCoy: There will be 30-minute blocks where students can get help from their teachers.
What cleaning products will be used to sanitize schools?
Superintendent Burke Royster: We use Biotab 7 in accord with safety guidelines. We use it after hours and any used, whether after hours or during the day, that we would spray on, student contact is not allowed until it’s dry. We consistently look for better chemicals and cleaning products that have few or any adverse affects. But to do the job we need it to do, we have to use something stronger. The primary concern of any decisions we make is for the health and safety of our students and staff.
How does GCS expect teachers to clean their classrooms every time students use something?
Superintendent Burke Royster: We are just asking teachers to spray everything down. It takes a few seconds and there won’t be as many kids as usual in classrooms. This is what GCS did at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena during graduation.
Masks in GCS Schools
What is considered a mask?
GCS states, “masks must be cloth or disposable and cover the mouth and nose securely.” Later communication has clarified that this would exclude bandannas as they do not cover the mouth securely but that buffs will be allowed.
Are there are exceptions for masks?
Yes, students in preK-1st will not be required to wear a mask as well as some special needs students. Students with official medical documentation stating that they have a medical condition that does not allow the wearing of a mask will also be excused from mask requirements.
Who will be enforcing mask mandates?
Superintendent Burke Royster: Elementary kids are under the direct supervision of their teachers so teachers would be enforcing the mandate. In middle and high school, teachers patrolling the hallways are responsible. There are disciplinary actions GCS is planning to take, like moving kids to the virtual program who repeatedly have infractions on this rule. The exceptions must be medically documented.
Meals at School
The FANS meal plan has multiple scenarios for the levels. how will we know when FANS is moving between these plans?
Derek Lewis: FANS scenarios are aligned to either Virtual School, 100% eLearning or Attendance Plans 1,2,5. They will implement the scenario that aligns to the attendance plan under which the district is operating. Where it lists more than one possibility — Schedule Option 2 has students either eating in the cafeteria or in their classrooms — that is going to be dependent on the size and layout of the specific school and cafeteria, and therefore may vary from school to school. This may need to be communicated at the school level. 100% virtual students will be served the same way all year.
Will school meals be available for all students, regardless of whether they chose in-person or the virtual program?
School meals will be available for all students in all school-opening scenarios, including the 100% eLearning option (Attendance Plan 0) and for those that register for the Virtual Program.
Will free or low-cost be available?
Yes, the online Free and Reduced Price Meal Applications are now available for the 2020-2021 school year and can be accessed here: http://greenville.schoollunchapp.com. For more information regarding Free and Reduced Price Meal Applications please contact the Food and Nutrition Services office at 864-355-1251 or by e-mail at [email protected]
Will those families already on the free/reduced price meal plan carry over into this new school year?
Students that were on free or reduced meal status during this 2019-2020 school year will revert to full paid status on Tuesday, October 6th unless a new meal application is submitted and approved based on USDA eligibility guidelines. Students attending one of the 21 Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) schools are not required to complete free and reduced meal applications and will automatically receive free meals based on the school’s participation in that USDA program.
Positive COVID tests at school
If a child or teacher in a classroom has a confirmed positive COVID
test, will the entire classroom be notified or just those likely affected?
Derek Lewis: We will follow DHEC guidance at the time of the exposure. Based on CURRENT DHEC guidance, anyone who is exposed must quarantine for 14 days. Exposure means 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of one another. This is one reason being able to socially distance (plans 1 and 2) is so critically important. See this article for a detailed breakdown of this topic.
Will those students who are in quarantine be able to do schoolwork from home?
Yes, lessons will be recorded and they can do schoolwork for their classes from home.
Will we know which schools have positive cases of COVID?
GCS lists the number of cases and the schools they are at is at this link.
Will Middle School lockers be used?
Derek Lewis: Locker use is a local school decision based on ability to distance. Schools have reduced the amount of “stuff” kids need to bring with them, reducing the need for locker use.
Will Middle Schoolers switch classes?
While transitions will be minimized this year, middle schoolers will still have some classes that will require changing classes.
Please see this GCS Facebook live for longer answers on sports.
Is a negative covid test required before being able to participate in sports?
No, it’s not required.
When will football season start?
The first official practice will be September 8. First scrimmage is September 12 and the first game is September 25.
When will cross country and volleyball start?
First practice is August 24 and first competition is September 7.
When will girls tennis, girls golf and boys and girls swim start?
First practice August 17, first scrimmage August 24 and first contest August 31.
When will spring sports start?
Will remain as scheduled so it should start in January but that also is skill-specific.
On a zero day for in-person schools, will kids still be able to practice/play?
No, activities would be suspended. As long as they are in attendance, they will play.
Can students who are in the virtual program participate in sports?
Yes, they are able to participate in GCS sports if they want.
If a student goes to a school that isn’t their zoned school, can they still play sports at their zoned school?
The student has to play for the school they attend. So you would not be able to attend one school and play for another.
Will athletes in close contact sports need to play with masks?
This has not been determined yet.
Will football players be responsible for santizing pads and helmets?
To some degree yes but this year, when GCS will be using the electrostatic sprayer in the locker rooms, it will help to disinfect the equipment. Wipes, sprays, and hand santizers will be all over the locker rooms.
Virtual School Questions
Can I still register for virtual school?
While the deadline is passed, the application as of now is still open. If there is space available, GCS has indicated students who apply after July 27th could be accepted.
Is there any aid given for families who don’t have Internet?
Yes, money has been appropriated through the CARES Act to deliver free hot spots for 100,000 families who qualify and apply by the deadline. The application and more information is available here. The hot spot will be paid through December 2020
Since so much will be happening virtually, there were questions about digital access to content. I understood from our earlier conversations about YouTube that the District has a number of approved and not-approved digital platforms that teachers can access. Is either of those lists publicly available?
Derek Lewis: This list is on our website:
What will the process look like to obtain teachers for the virtual program if not enough have interviewed and been hired? What about if teachers choose to teach virtually – will they be able to get their jobs back in the classroom at a later date)
GCS has said in a live Q&A that teacher shortages are not an issue. While GCS cannot guarantee brick-and-mortar jobs will remain for teachers who choose the virtual program, they will make every effort to get them back into the classroom.
If I am in the in-person option in elementary school, and I have an online day approximately how many hours a day will I be in class?
Derek Lewis: Your time “in class” will not be continual. Your teacher will provide a video or reading material or an original source to review and you will have work to do related to that. This should be the case for each subject. The amount of time spent on these will vary from child to child, but during Plans 1 and 2, the teacher is not available all day to be hosting Google Meets (as in 100% eLearning). The teacher may have a Google Meet with the online students during his/her planning period.
How many hours will virtual school be in Elementary School?
Derek Lewis: Virtual school will follow a normal school -day schedule, especially at MS and HS where you will move from one Google Meet or recorded lesson to the next. Teachers will deliver content, just as in a regular in-person class, followed by students doing work to reinforce learning. Just as in in-person school, some students will do the work quickly and others slowly.
If multiple neighborhood children in the same grade select the virtual option, can a request be submitted that they all be placed with the same teacher?
It was recently stated in a recent QA that GCS is attempting to keep children from the same public schools in the same classes in virtual school. If your child is in a magnet school, GCS has said they will try to keep kids from same schools in the same virtual classes.
What will a typical Virtual Program day look like?
Jeff McCoy, GCS: The virtual program will look like a regular school day and broken up in blocks of 30 minutes, which are grade-level appropriate. Lessons may be 10 or 15 minutes for lower grades and then do smaller group lessons. Work will be assigned to the students not working in the small groups, much like it would happen at in-person school. High school will look more like a regular day and those schedules are being handled by each individual high school. The same schedule will hold for the virtual program. There will be independent work and lessons and breaks and related arts and challenge. We don’t expect students to be on a computer for 6.5 hours. Smaller kids will have work that can be done on paper, like handwriting.
How much hands on time do parents need to plan?
Jeff McCoy: We are planning for independent work but it does depend on the child. Kindergarten and first grade will probably take more hands on time from the parents, unless the child is unusually independent.
How will attendance be taken?
Jeff McCoy: It will depend on the student logging online every day. We understand that some kids will need to do sessions later at night or at different times and they just need to login and do the work every day.
Will there be homework for virtual school?
Jeff McCoy: We want everything to be done during the class work time during the day for elementary. For older grades, it’s possible they could have homework. If the kids need to take a break during the day and resume later, that’s fine.
What technology will the students use?
Jeff McCoy: Students will use Google Meets for interactive classes on their state-issued Chromebooks.
Can you complete virtual learning outside of the country?
Jeff McCoy: Technically, yes. You can do it anywhere. The reading group is the only lessons we can’t record and it will be personalized so teachers need to have students there together.
How many students will virtual academy elementary school students be assigned? Will they have more students than hybrid teachers?
Jeff McCoy: 20-25 for grades K-1, 25-30 for grades 2-5, for grades 6-8 150-180.
Will teachers teaching via eLearning and the Virtual program be using the Google GSuite of tools/apps or will they be using something else?
Jeff McCoy: All teachers will be using Google Classroom. For the younger ones, teachers may be choose Seesaw but GCS is recommending Google Meets.
For virtual learning on the days we do not attend in person, is it 4K-2nd paper work and 3rd-5th chrome books? Will we have “homework” on top of daily virtual work as well? Is the virtual learning sign on at a certain time and sign off a certain time? Or can it be done on the weekend/evenings?
Every student will receive a Chromebook. The homework question and timing is answered above. And regarding the time of logging in and doing work not during school hours, Jeff McCoy says yes, but it’s important to login each day and do those assignments. Reach out to the teacher to ask for more time or talk to them about your circumstances.
Will students use textbooks?
Jeff McCoy: Almost all our textbooks are now in digital format. Some things are being sent home like consumables. If parents want a textbook for their child, they can check one out if they think it will be helpful.
Will there be a list of supplies students need to purchase?
Virtual program school supply list for K-5th grade is available here.
How do LEAP days work for virtual students?
Jeff McCoy: Virtual students, if they are comfortable, can attend in the afternoons. The state is required to test all students, which will happen for the virtual students. If parents aren’t comfortable with that, parents can come by and pick up the Chromebooks another day.
Would students be able to take those LEAP tests if they don’t go to the LEAP days?
Jeff McCoy: Right now, we have no way to have students take them online. So if the student doesn’t go to LEAP week, they will not take those state-required assessment tests.
Will there be a Meet the Teacher?
Jeff McCoy: There will be a virtual Meet the Teacher night.
What about related arts?
Jeff McCoy: We will do performing arts, including band and chorus, both in-person and online. Related arts will look somewhat like the spring. Our teachers have been working on recording videos and lessons. Elementary students will still have an art, PE, and music block and have videos to go through them. Teachers are available. We’ve brought on teams of related arts instructors to teach for virtual.
Can students who are in the virtual program participate in sports?
Yes, they are able to participate in GCS sports if they want.
Will students need special supplies for art class?
Jeff McCoy: Depending on the grade level, we’ve tried to limit those and what parents will have to purchase.
If my child wants to be in orchestra and he/she is in the virtual program, who should we contact?
Jeff McCoy: You can contact your school and they will guide you through that.
Will students go to the Career Center courses?
These will continue to be done in-person and not virtual. It’s one day a week and those spaces are much larger than our normal classrooms. Sanitizing and cleaning is the same.
Will students have chemistry and biology labs?
Jeff McCoy: We do have some labs that are virtual and are considering the idea of having some in-person labs that may be on a Saturday. That may not be a requirement but we do want students to have the benefits of hands-on experiences, which are more lab-intensive.
What will virtual school look like for challenge and gifted students?
Jeff McCoy: It will look similar to in-person school where schools break it up on certain days. They will have the same amount of hours they would have on the elementary level. For middle school, we are still offering all the gifted & talented students. The same thing applies for SPED and ELL services.
Will kids be able to interact with each other?
Jeff McCoy: Yes, Google has fixed some of these issues and students were creating their own Google Meet sessions. Sometimes those sessions weren’t monitored. Once a teacher leaves that Google Meet, the meeting shuts down. The teacher can make Google Meets for students to work together and collaborate.
Can virtual students pick up library books?
Jeff McCoy: We should be able to make this happen but not positive. We have subscribed to several library repositories as well so we’ll have access to those for students.
Is the elementary reading group for school hours only?
Yes, because that’s when our teachers are available. We’ll record ELA and reading (but not reading group) and have assignments for them.
Can we hook external hardware (headset, monitor) to the Chromebooks?
Jeff McCoy: Yes, many of our students wear headphones. They have an HDMI port and should be able to hook it in (or purchase an adapter).
Are there Chromebook fees?
Jeff McCoy: No, not unless they lose them. Parents needs to pick them up on the LEAP week or on the following week.
What happens if our kid breaks or loses the Chromebook?
Jeff McCoy: Oftentimes we can track them if they are stolen. If they are broken, contact your school. We are setting up repair sites around the county. They will get a loaner Chromebook while the broken one is being repaired.
Can we use our own Chromebooks?
Jeff McCoy: Yes but some things won’t work as well on your own. Some times during the year, we will require online testing and we can only lockdown our own Chromebooks so you’ll need to use these.
Are Chromebooks touchscreen for Kindergarten?
No, they are not.
How will GCS handle tech problems for Chromebooks?
Jeff McCoy: Make sure you’re using GCS Chromebooks. We had to pivot quickly this past spring so hopefully this year, we won’t have similar problems. Sometimes kids aren’t logged into their Google account (as opposed to their parents’ account) and that will cause problems. There were certainly some things that didn’t work and we’ve trained teachers on how to set permissions and we have a whole tech support for the virtual programs that should be able to help.
Help! We can’t login to our Chrome book.
From GCS: If your student is having trouble logging into his or her Chromebook, please follow these steps. If help is still needed, please call 355-HELP or email [email protected] To authenticate a district Chromebook, click on the GCSD Authentication icon on the Chromebook. Students will log in using their GCS username and password. They will need to authenticate the Chromebook for 6 hours, and this must be done EVERY DAY.
Questions that We Do Not Have Answered Yet
What is the plan for trades programs such as the Golden Strip or the Bond’s Center?
What about our children in foster care who utilize school based services like therapy?
How should/ could afterschool programs most effectively respond to the changes being made in school; that best serve families and children in need of these services?
Will there be any programs or services to assist families that can’t afford childcare on the days that their children are not in school?
How will the charges work for afterschool this year?
Will K4 have a different schedule from the older students?
Is anything prepared for our ESL students?
So with all the issues and responsibilities with school nurses, if they are out bc of exposure and the lack of sub nurses, will front office staff be responsible for the health rooms?
Do you have any information on what expectations are for non-teaching staff if we are on the hybrid schedule or on 100% e-learning? Do you know who or when we may know the expectations for making up hours?
Do kids need to bring anything in their LEAP day like a backpack to take home their chromebooks?
What if my child needs to be in supplemental programs such as reading enrichment, speech therapy, etc? Or is in a gifted program such as challenge?
If parents choose to homeschool, will they be able to take advantage of sped services still?
Was there anything about car tags or buses for this first LEAP day? I’m confused how to pick up my kid on that first day without car tags and he’s a kindergartner. Or if buses are running or not?
What is GCS doing to ensure that no student or parent is prevented from accessing the student’s education resources due to a language barrier – especially when education is virtual? In other words, what is GCS doing to enable students who are speakers of other languages access the needed resources, especially given that they may not have English speakers in the house? Will any educational material be offered in the student’s native language if school is virtual?
Do you have more questions or know the answer to one of the questions we listed? Let us know in the comments.
I understand that the staff will undergo temperature checks, but under what circumstances will students undergo temperature checks? If it’s not before the bused children are allowed to enter the bus or before the car-riding children enter the school, it might already be too late to prevent an outbreak.
Why can’t I enter Backpack from another country?
It’s best to contact the school for this answer.