State extends school closing through April
Georgetown County School District staff suspected that the shutdown due to the coronavirus would be more than two weeks, and had already planned for it before the governor extended it another five weeks.
“I’m optimistic that as a group we’re doing all we can as a county, certainly as a school district, and everybody is working together,” Superintendent Randy Dozier said. “The attitude is really great. We’re here every day working and cleaning. We’re trying to make the best out of a difficult situation.”
The district added deliveries to its feeding program this week, but will cut the number of days, though not the number of meals, starting next week.
“I don’t want our folks to get worn out and stressed out,” Dozier said. “I’m trying to give them a little bit of a break.”
Meals will be distributed at 11 feeding sites and six bus stops on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Children will receive one breakfast and two lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Waccamaw Elementary School will distribute meals from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and a school bus will drop off meals at Mount Zion Baptist Church on Parkersville Road between 11:30 and 11:45 a.m.
The district distributed more than 20,000 meals after the program started last week.
This week, 5,000 meals were distributed on Monday and 6,200 on Tuesday.
“That’s a big number for us,” Dozier said. “I really anticipate that number will climb.”
The district was forced to move a feeding site from Carvers Bay Middle to Carvers Bay High after an employee at the middle school was exposed to someone who may have tested positive for the coronavirus.
District employees, including a few principals, hit the road this week to deliver laptop computers to students for the e-learning program. Parents and guardians were supposed to pick up the devices last week, but some did not.
Fedrick Cohens, the director of curriculum, said the district is starting to track students who aren’t logging in to do their assignments. Teachers will be asked to contact those students to find out why. Students who are having trouble with an assignment should contact their teacher by email.
Students in kindergarten through second grade and in special education classes received packets with printed assignments. Cohens said the district hasn’t decided how to distribute more of those.
“We’ll have to monitor and adjust,” he said.
Dozier said the district will be flexible when grading e-learning work.
“We’re certainly going to grade it. It might be more pass/fail,” he said. “I want parents to not be too concerned about that. We’ll be very open and flexible with that work.”
Facing an extended school shutdown, the state received permission this week from the U.S. Department of Education to skip some standardized testing and assessments for this school year.
Elementary and middle school students will not be required to take the state’s standardized tests. For high school students, end-of-course exams will not count toward 20 percent of their final grades. Pre-kindergarten and alternative assessments have also been suspended.
Dozier said the district is working on a plan for video chatting and other types of online meetings for teachers and students.
“There’s a sense that they need to see their teacher in person with face-to-face contact,” he said. “That would be a kind of sense of security and relief.”
Students who are having trouble with district devices can call the district’s IT department at 843-436-7210, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. There is also an after-hours support line at 843-458-6496 between 1-8 p.m.
The district partnered with HTC to turn its four high schools into wi-fi hotspots by adding boosters so the signals now reach the parking lots. Log on to “HTC free wi-fi.” No password is needed. The Waccamaw Library’s wi-fi can also be accessed from its parking lot. The password is wifi123.
School district staff members have been posting videos and news releases almost daily on the district’s website and Facebook page with updates on things such as safety, e-learning, free wi-fi and the feeding program.
The updates are available at gcsd.k12.sc.us.