Greenville County Schools will transition to five-day-a-week in-person instruction for all elementary school students in the coming weeks thanks to plexiglass provided by the state government, superintendent Burke Royster announced at a press conference on Wednesday, Oct. 7.
There will be a phased-in return to school, similar to what is happening now with some student groups including first grade. Students will be allowed to return to five-day-a-week in-person instruction due to approval of the use of plexiglass in lieu of six-feet of social distancing by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Up until this week, DHEC had not answered the district’s questions over the use of plexiglass and its effectiveness, indicating that it was “likely and probably” effective. DHEC has now clarified to the school district that the use of plexiglass is acceptable in certain cases.
“For the past six weeks, teachers in our traditional model have been supporting two instructional platforms: in-person instruction and online eLearning,” said Royster in a statement. “Planning and delivering content over two platforms is very time-consuming and presents both teachers and parents with multiple challenges. Those challenges are even greater for teachers and parents working with our youngest students. This plan will remove the burden of eLearning from our elementary teachers, return those students to daily in-person instruction, and provide a safe learning environment that protects the health of students and staff.”
For the five days a week plan, elementary student classrooms will seat only four students together with plexiglass shielding each student so that each student has two walls of plexiglass on either side of their desk or seating area. Students in second through fifth grades will be required to keep their masks on while seated. Royster referred to these groups of four as “pods” and each pod much be six feet away from the other pods in the classroom. In doing this, the superintendent said that up to 24 students in pods can be in a classroom plus one additional student in a single desk — which means each classroom will be able to have 25 students and still be within DHEC’s precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“We continue to seek solutions and are expanding person to person instruction, more days a week,” said Royster. He also said that due to the district only operating on an 80% school bus capacity due to a shortage of bus drivers, middle school and high school students may end up being up to 30 minutes late to school while all elementary schools students are picked up and drop off at their schools.
While the plexiglass provides a solution to elementary school students, it does not work for middle and high school students who are not only physically larger than elementary school students but who have multiple teachers, going to different classrooms.
In a survey the school district conducted with teachers, 60% of elementary school teachers were comfortable or very comfortable with the phased-in five-days-a-week instruction with the plexiglass, Royster said. Each elementary school will receive a plexiglass construct next week in order for teachers to see it up close before more arrive.
The plexiglass — which cost about $4.3 million — will be provided to Greenville County Schools free-of-charge by the SC Department of Education.
First graders and kindergartners will not have plexiglass dividers since their seating is socially distanced.
As for numbers of positive cases of COVID-19 across the school district, Royster said, “Our numbers have been very stable over time.”
“This step would not be possible without DHEC Interim Director of Public Health Dr. Brannon Traxler’s willingness to approve a plexiglass system of our design and specifically stating that students who are seated in this system are not considered to be close contacts with one another, as defined by DHEC for the purposes of quarantining,” added Royster.
Dr. Royster is announcing how updated DHEC guidance is allowing GCS to safely return more students to full-time in-person instruction.
Posted by Greenville County Schools on Wednesday, October 7, 2020
The schedule for returning to five-day-a-week in-person school for elementary school students:
4K & 5K
Week of October 12: Students will attend Monday or Tuesday, based on the color group
Students will attend Wednesday & Thursday, October 14 & 15
Week of October 19 is the first full week of attendance (4 Days because October 23 is a professional development day)
Week of October 26 will be the first full 5-day week
1st Grade – already underway
Week of September 30: Students attended Monday or Tuesday, based on the color group
Students attended Wednesday & Thursday, September 30 & October 1
Week of October 12 will be the first full 5-day week
Week of October 19: Students will attend Monday or Tuesday, based on the color group
Students will attend Wednesday & Thursday, October 21 & 22
Week of October 26 will be the first full 5-day week
Week of October 26: Students will attend Monday or Tuesday, based on the color group
Students will attend Wednesday & Thursday, October 28 & 29
Week of November 2 will be the first full week (4 days because Election Day is the Nov. 3)
4th Grade & 5th Grade
Week of November 2: Students in Blue and Green color groups will attend Monday (Tuesday is a school holiday due to Election Day – no students attend)
Students will attend Wednesday and Thursday, November 4 & 5
Week of November 9 is the first full 5-day week