GEORGETOWN COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Georgetown County School District (GCSD) students begin classes on Wednesday, August 18th and district leaders say they have all the tools for a successful year.
Last year, all students started the school year online, then many moved into a hybrid learning model before attending classes in person five days a week. This year, every student will start the year in person, full time as the virtual learning platform was not renewed for the upcoming year.
A survey was sent out to GCSD families in the spring to gauge interest in a virtual program. In the end, the survey showed that less than 2% of respondents expressed an interest in the program, so district leaders decided it would be discontinued.
“We just didn’t have enough interest to sustain it,” explained GCSD’s Superintendent, Keith Price.
The district is keeping the same strict cleaning protocols that were implemented last year including disinfecting and sanitizing measures throughout all schools and busses. The district also will continue updating its COVID-19 dashboard which details positive cases and quarantines across all schools.
One thing that will be different this school year in GCSD is plexiglass barriers. Last year, every classroom had the barriers
“The CDC and DHEC have kind of removed their references to the effectiveness of plexiglass and we did a survey with our parents in the spring last year,” said Price. “The majority of our responses told us that we’re ready to get the plexiglass barriers out of the way.”
Throughout the summer, the plexiglass dividers were removed from all classrooms, but there are still some available should a student or parent request one.
“We recognize that some people feel more comfortable with that extra barrier,” said Superintendent Price.
A popular adjustment put in place last year will stick around, staggered start times for students. Elementary students will start their school day earlier than middle and high school students. This is to accommodate for social distancing on busses and deep cleaning in between groups.
A medical advisory panel will be continuing this year. It’s made up of local doctors, pediatricians, and health experts. The district takes advice and input from the panel on decisions regarding students and schools.
“I think that helped our community see that we educators are not up here making all these decisions about public health without considering input from the public health experts,” said Price.
Some topics the district discussed with the panel over the summer include masks, plexiglass, and sleeping schedules for teenagers with the adjusted bell schedule.
GCSD is taking a step forward this year and adding a mental health advisory panel to assist the district in handling situations pertaining to the mental health of students and staff.
“We know this pandemic has hit all of us in so many different ways, our students, our employees, and our families,” said the Superintendent. “Part of our expanded focus this year is going to be increasing our attention to mental health and social-emotional wellness.”
Overall, Georgetown County school staff are looking forward to the year and meeting new students and are ready to shift the focus back to learning instead of pandemic management.
“Since we’ve got those organizational and operational measures in place, our focus this year will really be back where it’s supposed to be and that’s learning.”
For more on GCSD’s back-to-school plan, click here.