From kindergarten to college, students dealt with closures, e-learning and many other effects of the pandemic this year. Schools had to close while school districts worked to ensure students had access to the internet to complete their coursework. Students were eventually allowed back into the classroom or to choose a virtual school option. Superintendent Burke Royster signed up to continue to lead Greenville County Schools for another four years, and Clemson received its largest donation ever.
Greenville County Schools close
On March 15, 2020, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster ordered schools to close due to the pandemic. At the time, most didn’t know how long the closing would be. Schools would be closed for the remainder of the school year, with students using eLearning for instruction and receiving free meals to help families who have been having a difficult financial time due to the pandemic. When schools reopened in the fall, students were given the choice to participate in all-time virtual school with assigned teachers or to go back to a brick-and-mortar classroom that was set on a certain attendance schedule that was flexible if cases of COVID-19 became a threat to students’ safety.
Internet provided to Greenville County Schools students
Beginning in March during the school closings due to the pandemic, GCS began providing free Wi-Fi to students at certain locations around the district. Students were able to access the internet near buses that were used for delivering meals to students while the buses were parked. GCS parking lots were other locations where students could access the internet. County libraries also boosted their internet to reach parking lots. The South Carolina State Legislature set aside federal dollars to help ensure students had internet by providing at least 100,000 students in the state with free internet until late December.
Superintendent Burke Royster receives contract extension
Greenville County Schools Superintendent Burke Royster received an “exemplary commendation” on Monday, Oct. 12, from his annual evaluation by the school district’s Board of Trustees. On top of the evaluation results, the board also approved a motion extending Royster’s contract to June 30, 2024. Royster has overseen the district’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We want to do whatever we can to help ensure that students have the kind of experience they need to have — provided we can do it in a way that maintains safety for them and for our employees,” Royster said. He’s led Greenville County Schools since 2012.
Clemson University receives its largest gift ever: $60 million
Clemson University received a $60 million gift from philanthropists Wilbur O. “Billy” and Ann Powers for the university’s college of business, the school announced Friday, Oct. 16. The donation is the largest-ever in Clemson’s history and is one of the largest given to a public institution in the state. The Powers’ gift will also go toward providing need-based scholarships and financial aid. The Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business will feature internships and study abroad programs, industry partnerships, marketplace modeling and hands-on laboratories. As part of the Powers’ gift, part of the new school of business building will be named in honor of their grandson, Chandler Burns, who graduated from Clemson in 2015. Burns died in 2016 following an illness.
Greenville County Schools allow some students to return to five days of in-person instruction
In early October, Greenville County Schools Superintendent Burke Royster announced elementary school students would go back to attending five days of in-person instruction in their schools if they had been signed up to attend in-person. The change was due to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control approving the use of plexiglass in lieu of observing 6-foot social distancing. Some student groups — such as those in special education — had already returned to five-day weeks. In the weeks that followed, Royster announced that middle schoolers would also begin to go back to school five days a week, even as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the community. High school students will begin more in-person school days beginning in January.