The 2020-21 school year begins Aug. 24, and Greenville County Schools Superintendent W. Burke Royster wants it to be the most normal school year possible in the most abnormal times.
“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,” he said. Royster, who has led Greenville County Schools since 2012, said the school district has already shown its commitment to trying to make it so by allowing students to graduate high school in person.
The past few months have been filled with surveys and discussions about the upcoming school year. Now, the school district has two pathways for students: in-person instruction that’s based on an attendance plan that medical experts consulted on or an all-virtual program.
Parents have questioned the current in-person attendance model that has students going to class only once or twice a week. Royster said it’s to ensure everyone is kept safe.
“The only way we can keep 6 feet between students [and] in between students and the teacher is to have students come to school either one or two days a week,” he explained. He added that the in-person instruction will provide a closer relationship between students and teachers. Since the required social distancing measures, classes will only have a fraction of the number of students they had in previous years, allowing for more one-on-one teaching.
The virtual program works like an in-person school day: Students in lower grades will have one teacher while those in higher grades will have subject-matter teachers who will teach them during certain periods. Royster recommends that parents maintain proper communication with their student’s teachers to help the student succeed.
To those who might have a change of mind and want their children in the virtual program, Royster said there’s a waiting list for the program — middle school still has some open spots that could be filled, he said.
Regardless of the type of schooling, Royster said that Greenville County Schools will work to ensure students’ needs are met, and he wants students and their parents to understand that.
For students, Royster said, “Everything that we’ve done in our plan and the procedures that we have [were] done to help ensure that you, your classmates and everybody that works in the school is protected to the greatest degree that we can protect you.”
And to the parents of Greenville County Schools’ students?
“We’re doing what we believe — based on science and medicine — is in the best interest of your child and our employees,” Royster said. “While we might always not always agree on that, that’s what’s driving our actions.”