Thank you to Christ Church Episcopal School for sponsoring this article.
The Greenville area is home to many excellent schools and parents truly have an array of educational institutions they can choose from to meet their child’s needs. But as a parent, it can be overwhelming to say the least! In the end, how do you know if you’ve made the right decision?
There is one school that stands out for its exceptional curriculum which aims to fulfill the needs of every student and seeks to gives them the necessary skills to excel in the classrooms, on their sports team and in their community. If you are looking around for a great school where your child is given every opportunity to fulfill their potential, from K through 12th grade, take a good look at Christ Church Episcopal School (CCES).
Do you ever struggle to keep up with all the information from your child’s school? GCS Backpack can help you navigate the school year! Grades, attendance, teacher information, and school calendar. It can all feel overwhelming. Greenville County Schools has an excellent solution with their Backpack app.
Here’s everything you need to know about the app to make this school year a little easier.
Backpack is a resource provided by Greenville County Schools to keep students and parents updated. It can be accessed through a browser but is also available as an app.
Things Parents Can Do on Backpack
Easily edit emergency contact information
Check their child’s meals balance and add funds
Find their child’s school and teacher contact information
Enroll additional children
View available programs for their child
See their child’s grades and test scores
Check their child’s attendance and daily schedule
Stay informed about their child’s behavior
Find a link to the school calendar
GCS students are assigned an email address and password when they are enrolled and have access to their own GCS Backpack dashboard. There they can view their class schedule, check their grades and test scores, and view their lunch balance.
Students can also use their Backpack GCS dashboard to access the educational apps they use for school.
The parent dashboard has a wealth of information. Parents can view basically the same information as on the student dashboard but with additional features.
You can easily edit your child’s emergency contact information, pay on their meal cards, check their behavior and attendance, and enroll additional students. You’ll also find your child’s teacher’s contact information, their school’s contact information, and a link to the GCS calendar.
Have more than one child in GCS? You still only need one Backpack account. You’ll be able to access each child’s information easily from the main dashboard.
Creating an Account on the GCSBackpack app?
Parents can set up their own account by going to the GCSbackpack website and selecting the “I’m a Parent” option. You’ll need your child’s student ID number to add them to your account. At the end of the process, you’ll be prompted to contact your child’s school to complete your account.
GCS has a page on its website with information and a video with instructions on setting up your account.
Greenville County Schools in Greenville, SC proposed a change to the 2023-24 school year calendar In November and asked for feedback from parents and staff. They announced that results of that feedback and the new 2023-24 school calendar.
New School Year Calendars Released
UPDATE: December 14, 2022
Greenville County Schools has announced that they have changed the 2023-24 school year calendar. Instead of starting school the second week of August, they will now begin August 8, 2023. The school year will end before Memorial Day Weekend on May 22, 2024.
In an email to media, GCS said: “The calendars reflect a shift to allow the fall academic semester to end prior to Winter Break. This adjustment will be academically beneficial to students, and the feedback received regarding this shift was extremely positive, with 74% of respondents in favor. Midterms, finals and state testing will be completed before students leave for winter break, rather than in January when they return to school after an extended break. “
GCS said that releasing calendars two years in advance will be the new norm in efforts to help families plan further out. The 2025-26 student calendar will be determined in Fall 2023.
To learn about the feedback GCS received from parents and to view the 2023-24 and 2024-25 student calendars, click here.
Original Post (November 2022)
In a 53-second video, Greenville County Schools outlines their proposed changes to the 2023-24 school year calendar.
They are asking for the change in order to get all the state-required testing done before the beginning of Winter Break instead of doing it in early January when students and teachers return to the classroom.
The Proposed Changes
GCS proposes that the first day of the 2023-24 school year would move a week earlier to Tuesday, August 8, 2023 instead of the usual mid-August start date.
The end of the school year would be May 22, 2024, which is before Memorial Day Weekend. Usually, the end of the school year is the first week in June.
Other school districts in South Carolina have already made this change. This current school year, 2022-23, several districts in our area including Oconee, Pickens, a handful in Greenwood, Abbeville, and McCormick, start in early August and even late July.
Feedback is Welcome
Greenville County Schools said that feedback is welcome on these new proposed changes. Parents can email the district at [email protected]. They are taking feedback through December 1, 2022.
For parents who are planners and have already booked next summer’s vacation, this could certainly hamper their plans. Other feedback we’ve seen is that parents feel that the first week of August is still in the middle of summer. Yet others think that this is a fantastic change because it’s so hard to get students back into the swing of the things right after the two-week winter break in order to take exams.
The other thing to consider is that many private schools follow the GCS calendar so those schools would likely be affected by this change as well.
Whatever you have to say, send an email over to district and let them know before December 1, 2022.
A bill affecting students and families in Greenville County making its way through the South Carolina legislature is almost certain to be passed and signed into law imminently. It demands that students return to in-person learning five days a week by April 26th.
Currently, only high school students are not back to full-time, in-person instruction, which the district is now set to change to comply with the law.
The Greenville County School district said this morning that all plexiglass will be removed at the high school level this Friday (students are eLearning then) and desks will be arranged three feet apart in rows.
“This means that students will not be able to follow the social distancing guidance recommended for our current community incidence rate, but will be seated 3 feet apart without plexiglass,” wrote Tim Waller, Director of Media Relations at GCS.
This new law does not affect students who are in the Virtual Program.
“High school families currently in our brick and mortar (traditional) attendance plan will have the option to attend school five days or to remain on the 75% attendance schedule, beginning Monday, April 26,” said the email to the media. “Students who remain on the 75-percent plan should continue to participate in eLearning on their at-home days.”
The district does not expect mange changes at the elementary and middle school levels since those grades have been back to five days a week, in-person instruction since before Christmas. They don’t expect families in the Virtual Program to ask to switch their kids to in-person this late in the year, especially since it could cause changes in teachers and schedules.
The district has stated multiples times their goal to get students back to full-time in-person instruction as soon as it was safe to do.
If your child wants to participate in the Virtual Program through GCS next year, you can learn more about registering them here.
Greenville County Schools have announced an eLearning day during teacher vaccination clinics. As South Carolina opened up the next phase of COVID-19 vaccinations, phase 1B, teachers are eligible – which means parents of students who are in-person need to plan for eLearning days on Thursday, March 18th as teachers and staff will need the time to physically go get the vaccine.
Note: GCS had previously announced the potential for eLearning day on Monday, March 22nd, 2021, but has since indicated that March 22nd will be a regular in-school day for students. An additional day may yet be announced, and GCS ensures parents they will provide as much notice as possible.
Teachers were eligible to receive the vaccine starting Monday, March 8th. As teachers and staff take the time to get their shots, GCS students will go to eLearning for two days.
Greenville County Schools are asking parents of students who attend school in-person to make plans for childcare on March 18th. Also note that March 19th is already scheduled as a teacher workday and a day off for students. March 19th could not be used as a vaccination day.
Lessons on eLearning Days
Students are not off of school on eLearning days. Teachers will be providing lessons and posting assignments.
If you have questions, email your child’s teacher or contact GCS.
The Greenville County Schools system will be continuing their Virtual Program into next year and registration is open.
During the 2021-21 school year, Greenville County Schools had about one-third of their students, more than 23,000, in the Virtual Program, where all instruction and schoolwork is done online. GCS will continue to offer this option for next year, the 2021-22 school year.
Registration closes April 23, 2021
Registration is now open to enroll full-time in the GCS Virtual Program and will continue through Friday, April 23, 2021.
The Virtual Program is staffed based upon early signup so if you want your child(ren) to do this program next year, be sure to register. There will be a waitlist if need be.
In an email to media, the GCS press office said that the current registration schedule is “based on an assumption the pandemic will no longer be a serious concern. If during the summer it is apparent school will open in the fall on an altered schedule or with pandemic protocols in place, and/or if vaccines are not widely available for all age groups, additional windows will be made available for parents to select the Virtual Program.”
To register for the Virtual Program, parents must have a BackPack account, which is where parents must fill out the registration information.
Changes to the 2021-22 Virtual Program
Greenville County Schools has instituted the following changes in the Virtual Program for the new school year:
An increased emphasis on attendance in live sessions. Students will be expected to participate in live sessions at scheduled times. Exceptions based on extenuating circumstances must be approved, in advance, by the virtual administrator.
Parents who wish for students to return to brick and mortar instruction will be allowed to make requests. They are encouraged to make an approved transition at the end of a nine-week grading period.
Students in the Virtual Program will be scheduled based on grade level and academic record, not by school. This is a significant change for high school students, who will not be scheduled with teachers from their high schools next year.
The Virtual Program will not be offered at Specialized/Magnet programs such as Charles Townes Center, Language Immersion and preschool/self-contained disabilities.
Virtual Program Challenges
In the first quarter of the 2021 school year, GCS announced that grades were seriously slipping, especially among the students in the virtual program.
Out of the 72,832 students enrolled in Greenville County Schools, 16,047 have one or more F’s, which is equal to about 22% of all students enrolled in the county.
Double the number of virtual program students have more F’s than in-person students. But even comparing numbers from last year between in-person students, this year’s hybrid eLearning and in-person students are having a lot harder time with their studies. Last school year, 5,327 students in in-person learning had one or more F’s and this year, that number is 8,566, a 10% increase.
GCS announced several measures to try to remedy the causes. Progress reports have not been publicly issued yet.
GCS has answered several questions about the Virtual Program in this document. And we interviewed Jeff McCoy of Greenville County Schools last summer specifically about the Virtual Program:
Thank you to Derek Lewis for providing these important updates from the Greenville County School meeting on January 12, 2021. This information was originally published on Derek’s Facebook page and is republished here with permission.
About Derek Lewis: Derek Lewis serves as a member of the Greenville County School board. Derek is also the Executive Director of Greenville First Steps, a non profit that funds programs to help parents and caregivers prepare children for Kindergarten. Derek’s is in his 6th year on the board, and represents Greenville School District area 24- which includes Augusta Road, Gower and Maudlin areas of Greenville County. Derek’s wife Hedrick teaches 5K at Berea Elementary school and his son, William, is in 4th grade at Augusta Circle elementary. Derek also serves as the chair of the School Board Advocacy committee- which helps to inform and shape public policy around education issues at the state and federal level.
I have been contacted by parents who want to know what penalty would exist should a family who opted for Face to Face instruction decide to keep their students home for a week or two as county infection rates rise. The District has clarified that a student may miss school without an excuse for up to 10 days. And, if a student misses more than 10 days, the Administration from the school is granted the authority to review those circumstances on a case by case basis. So, a parent could keep their students home for 2 weeks, waiting for infection numbers in the County to drop, and not have a penalty to that student.
Extension of EFMLA
The 2020 CARES ACT provided up to 80 hours of paid leave for any employee who has a Covid-19 related absence (either from exposure at work or outside of work, or the exposure of a family member). This additional coverage allowed an employee to take this leave without using his/her sick leave. The 2020 CARES ACT EFMLA coverage ended on Dec 31, 2020. We hoped the CARES II bill would include an extension of this coverage. It did not, leaving our employees without this valuable protection. The Greenville School Board unanimously approved the recommendation from the Administration that we locally support our staff with a LOCAL extension of EFMLA through August 31, 2021 (and retroactive to cover any EFMLA eligible leave that occurred in January prior to this action).
Recognizing the extraordinary challenges our employees have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Board unanimously approved a one-time bonus of $1,000 for ALL salaried GCS exempt personnel and $100 for all adjunct personnel. This action, with its $9.4m price tag, will be funded through fund-balance currently held in reserve from cost savings realized through the District over the past year, expenses from the 2020-2021 budget that were frozen in June by the Board, and from 2020 CARES ACT funding.
Wondering what school will look like in Greenville County Schools when they return on January 4th? Greenville County School leaders met and here’s what they had to say about their post-holiday plans for in-person, face-to-face, and virtual instruction in elementary, middle, and high schools.
Greenville County Schools, in response to questions asked by the community, and a petition calling for greater transparency released this statement on January 4th, 2021:
“Throughout this Pandemic and especially once planning began for a return to in-person learning, Greenville County Schools has been in regular contact with medical representatives from DHEC, Prisma Health, and Bon Secours, seeking guidance and expertise regarding the protocols we have adopted to ensure the health and safety of students and staff and our plans to increase in-person attendance. Though only DHEC has the statutory authority to close schools, we have continued to seek input from experts who live and work in our community each time we have made a decision about revising or increasing in-person instruction, including last Thursday, December 31, when we affirmed our plans to return to school on January 4. Based on the many protocols GCS has in place to help mitigate the spread of COVID, none of these entities have at this time, or any time, recommended that we step back from our current or proposed operating mode.
Dr. Brannon Traxler, Interim Director of Public Health is our primary contact at SC DHEC. Because the local health systems have served only as consultants without any authority to open or close schools, and since our contacts at Bon Secours and Prisma Health have made it clear to us they are representing the expertise of their respective systems and not just individual opinions, we will refer back to those systems any requests for individual names.”
Greenville County Schools released the following statement announcing their plan for a return after the holidays, on December 31st, 2020:
“Today, GCS leaders met to discuss the recent spike in COVID cases and the district’s path forward. As preparation for this meeting, specific guidance from medical officials at Bon Secours, Prisma, and DHEC was sought and discussed.
In short, students and teachers in our traditional program will return to school as planned on Monday, with elementary and middle school back for five days of face-to-face instruction and high schools on Attendance Plan 2. This does not impact students in the virtual program who will continue with 100% virtual instruction.
Greenville County Schools announced today that they are bringing back high school students come mid-January from 40 percent attendance up to 75 percent attendance. Plexiglass dividers will be used in high schools were six feet of distance is not possible.
Dr. Royster, GCS Superintendent, said that bringing back high school students has been a big challenge due to class sizes and space available, in addition to the fact that high schoolers tend to have higher number of COVID cases.
“We’ve known from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that high schools pose the biggest challenge when it comes to returning students to the classroom. This plan allows us to nearly double the amount of in-person instruction at high schools and return most Career Center students to fulltime in-person instruction allowing them to work toward their industry certification,” said Dr. Royster.
GCS announced last month they are bringing back middle school students to full-time in-person attendance.
How it Works
The new schedule for high schoolers will start on January 19, 2021.
Each color group (blue, red, green, purple) will have three in-person attendance days that never change:
Blue—Monday, Wednesday, Thursday
Red—Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
Green—Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
Purple—Monday, Tuesday, Thursday
On Friday, students will attend in-person classes three out of four Fridays each month based on their color group:
Blue, Red, Green—January 22, February 19, March 26, April 30, May 28 (Purple = eLearning)
Blue, Red, Purple—January 29, February 26, April 2, May 7, June 4 (Green = eLearning)
Blue, Green, Purple—February 5, March 5, April 16, May 14 (Red = eLearning)
Red, Green, Purple—February 12, March 12, April 23, May 21 (Blue = eLearning)
Students will engage in eLearning on days they are not physically in class. On eLearning days, teachers will offer streamed and/or recorded instruction.
Current Obstacles: Substitute Teachers
In an email to media last month, the district pointed out that DHEC statistics point to the fact that contracting COVID-19 at school is about half the rate of the community.
Even so, with the number of teachers in quarantine for possible exposure to COVID-19 and being sick with the virus or with another ailment, the district cannot fill classrooms with the adults needed to hold in-person class.
“With a significant number of substitutes who have refused all offered assignments this year, it is becoming increasingly difficult to fill in for absent teachers. Media specialists, school counselors, instructional coaches, and administrators are all being called on to help supervise classes, but at the expense of their usual duties and responsibilities,” the district said in an email.
Dr. Royster said today that these current plans could certainly be derailed if cases continue to climb and they cannot staff schools.
If the COVID-19 Surge Continues…
As COVID-19 cases in South Carolina, in particular in our area in the Upstate, continue to increase, Dr. Royster said schools may need to close. He indicated that if school was supposed to be in session next week, at the rate cases have been increasing, many schools would likely have closed.
As indicated above, the school doesn’t have enough teachers to cover classes due to quarantining requirements for exposure.
The 2021-22 School Year
GCS released the calendar for the 2021-22 school year, which contains no inclement weather days. If there is bad weather, students will still attend class through eLearning.
The Virtual Program will also be available next year and the district said they will release more information soon about signing up.
The Greenville County School Board had their November 10, 2020 meeting and here are the highlights.
It’s no secret this year has been a huge struggle for teachers, students, and parents as they’ve gone back to school in some fashion or another. But the first quarter grades reveal just how much of a struggle it’s been.
Out of the 72,832 students enrolled in Greenville County Schools, 16,047 have one or more F’s, which is equal to about 22% of all students enrolled in the county.
Double the number of virtual program students have more F’s than in-person students. But even comparing numbers from last year between in-person students, this year’s hybrid eLearning and in-person students are having a lot harder time with their studies. Last year, 5,327 students in in-person learning had one or more F’s and this year, that number is 8,566, a 10% increase.
High school virtual program students seem to be struggling the most, with more than half have one or more F’s. Virtual Program middle schoolers are next with nearly 40% having one or more F’s.
Superintendent Dr. Royster said that these numbers weren’t all together unexpected as the district was worried from the outset about the complete overhaul of the new learning systems.
Associate Superintendent of Academics Jeff McCoy said that many of the F’s are due to students not handing in work.
What is the school district doing to help?
Math and ELA intervention programs in elementary school will continue. These have already been in place. In middle school, Read180 classes will continue.
Starting November 6, GCS will provide transportation for all brick and mortar students, have between 6-8 students per teachers, and compensate teachers for tutoring after-hours. They will work on identifying students with F’s and see what kind of intervention they need. The district uses a process called the OnTrack process that identifies students who need intervention.
Intervention in the K-8 Virtual Program will be looking at 45-60 minute after school sessions at least two days a week. This could happen before or after school and possibly on weekends, all virtually.
There are remediation blocks built into schedules but schools will add more, up to three times per week for elementary and twice a week for middle. Intervention focus will be geared towards reading and math.
If more intensive intervention is needed for virtual only students, GCS is looking at possible in-person options that focus on the core academic areas.
For high school intervention, teachers teach both brick and mortar and virtual and would be available for 30-45 minutes before school. Virtual students are welcome to come to school if they can for this extra work. There will be after school hours for one day a week with the current two days per week in-person attendance. High school students who are struggling may be able to come back to school in-person more than twice a week but overall, there are no plans for high school wide in-person attendance more than two days per week.
How do teachers feel about returning to buildings?
Dr. Royster said they only surveyed middle school teachers, who are generally reticent about coming back in-person. He’s meeting with teachers this week.
The district indicated they are looking at a safe path to move forward to bring back teachers and students and will move forward to do so.
Dr. Royster was asked about those teachers who are still worried about returning the classroom. He said that teachers are expected to show up for school if they don’t have any medical underlying issue. The protocols in place are not designed by the school but rather by public health experts.
Dr. Royster said to expect an announcement early next week about bringing back middle schoolers five days a week to in-person school.
High School Schedule Changes
All high schools in the Greenville County School district will be moving to block scheduling starting next school year, 2021-2022. Classes will be 90 minutes instead of 50 minutes. For detailed information, see this link from GCS.
This is a summary of the benefits of block scheduling that the district posted in the school board meeting: