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Draft Operations Plan for COVID-19

 Return to Learn Draft Plan2020-2021

(click here for Spanish version)   

 

To Our District 7 Family,

As we look to a new school year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we celebrate the resilience displayed this past year by our students, our parents, and our schools’ and district personnel. We might have come into this predicament unknowingly, but even in the moments of frustration and uncertainty we overcame the extraordinary circumstances. On May 30th, when I looked across at our seniors from the Class of 2020 during their graduation in Viking Stadium, I found a reason to smile and to celebrate. Amidst a challenge that could not be ignored, we had prepared our students for a life ahead.

I hope you have had a moment to catch your breath as a family, even amid the continued pandemic and the mounting racial tensions in our nation and communities.  We have been hard at work in District 7 focusing on these issues. As we look to the coming school year, we begin our journey with a year-long theme of Forward Together. It is, for that reason, we ask for your input and guidance as we begin preparing for the 2020-2021 school year.

As we plan for what school will look like this fall, we want you to know that we are making every effort to restore some form of face-to-face learning while also preparing to teach most effectively in a distance learning setting.  Both tasks are daunting, and we appreciate your continued patience as we navigate these logistics. Our goal in District 7 is to create a meaningful learning experience for every child. Of course, the wellness and safety of our students and staff is our upmost priority, and we are working to create a safe learning environment in which our dedicated professionals can effectively implement our mission.  Regardless of the path this coming year takes, our students will receive quality instruction that covers grade level standards so they may progress successfully in their educational careers.   

As a District 7 parent, I understand first-hand the academic, social-emotional, physical, and economic needs for returning to an in-person learning model. But we cannot ignore the fact that the threat of this virus continues as we see it spike in Spartanburg and throughout South Carolina. As such, we must take all prudent steps to prevent schools from contributing to the spread in our community. We also anticipate future outbreak periods that will create the need to move from in-person to remote learning for some time.

The following document presents our current thinking. It represents many days of research, scenario modeling, and collaboration with our State Department of Education, neighboring school districts, and medical experts. This is very much a work in progress, and we believe that through candid and constructive feedback from our district community, this plan can be strengthened. Therefore, we are soliciting feedback from our employees as well as our parents.

We recognize this is a great deal of information to digest. Without question, our education system will change dramatically for the coming year. We know that some of these options may generate strong and widely differing opinions. We ask each of you to be open to what is possible and to help us to put forth our best thinking as we move Forward Together.   

With admiration,

Jeff Stevens, Superintendent

Spartanburg School District Seven Return to Learn
DRAFT Plan – June 2020

INTRODUCTION

In March 2020, Spartanburg School District 7 closed its school buildings for in-person learning due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and related public health orders. For the remainder of the spring semester, students engaged in eLearning. As we look to the coming year, we anticipate public health restrictions may continue to fluctuate in light of low, medium or high spread of the virus in our area. Therefore, we need a plan that is flexible and responsive to these conditions and that allows for high quality instruction in any format of delivery.

Spartanburg School District 7’s Return to Learn plan maximizes in-person learning opportunities to the fullest extent possible, while also taking prudent steps to keep our students, staff, and community safe and to adhere to public health orders. We also understand some families may prefer a virtual learning environment as a long-term option. Therefore, the plan includes three learning models that District 7 can employ based on low, medium, or high spread of COVID-19 in our area. The district will shift among these three models as needed. A fourth learning model provides parents with a District 7 Virtual School option that may be selected for an entire semester or a full year.

This draft is based on guidance and recommendations from the South Carolina Department of Education’s AcceleratEd Taskforce as well as our state’s public health officials. The plan will be adjusted based on updated data and guidance from these entities.   

District 7’s Return to Learn plan incorporates the following public health precautions (subject to change):

Public Health Precautions

  • All persons will be required to maintain 6 feet physical distancing
  • Staff and student face coverings strongly recommended
  • Symptom screening and temperature check expectations
  • Handwashing and hygiene protocols
  • Size limitations for group gatherings
  • Short-term school closures or other measures in response to suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases
  • Additional deep cleaning protocols

The following Learning Models may be implemented by District 7 based on COVID-19 spread in our area:

Low Spread

Medium Spread

High Spread

 Model 1: Traditional Scheduling 

Model 2: Hybrid/Modified Scheduling

 Model 3: Full
eLearning 

 

Families may opt to participate in a fourth model through District 7 in order to receive all instruction virtually (this option requires commitment of at least one entire semester):

Model 4:

District 7 Virtual School


In all cases, our goal will be to engage in early, clear, and consistent communications with students, families, and our community about changes to school operations necessitated by COVID-19. Our communication will include direct instruction to all students concerning new protocols and expectations.

In all cases, buses will transport students at 50% capacity (parents who can provide transportation will be asked to do so) and meals will be provided either at school or in a “Grab and Go” format.

 

Learning Model 1: Traditional Scheduling(Employed During Low COVID-19 Spread)

 

In this scenario, all students and staff will return to a school building due to low or no spread of COVID-19 in the area. From a learning perspective this is our school district’s ideal scheduling scenario, but this option can only be deployed if it is possible to do so based on guidelines provided by public health authorities (DHEC and CDC) and available facilities and staffing.

This “traditional” model incorporates modifications to scheduling and instructional practices that mitigate continued risks related to COVID-19. These modifications will include:

  1. Class Size Caps - Class size caps established by health authorities will not be exceeded in our schools. The following measures may be implemented in order to facilitate this goal (these also apply to classes that meet in-person for Model 2: Hybrid/Modified):
  1. Remove any non-critical classroom furniture
  2. Limit or eliminate partner or group activities that require close physical proximity of students
  3. Increase utilization of large campus spaces (interior and exterior)
  4. Prioritize inclusion of students with IEPs.
  1. Minimize Student Transitions - To the greatest extent possible, we will seek to minimize student transitions during the day. This may result in schedule shifts which could include:
  1. Staggered class dismissals
  2. Redesigning student arrival and dismissal
  3. Scheduled restroom breaks
  4. Scheduled “cohorts” of students with common courses
  5. Minimizing or eliminating large group gatherings (assemblies, pep rallies, etc.)
  6. Minimizing student transitions beyond the school (field trips)
  1. Modified School Day (Spartanburg High School) - When possible, SHS may seek to provide juniors and seniors with flexible scheduling which could include alternative arrival or dismissal in place of study hall periods, lunch dismissals, etc. For students seeking to take courses beyond the 24 credits required for graduation, SHS will consider virtual school models when a desired course is available.

  2. Planning for Potential Self-Isolation Periods - Based on current health guidance in our state and community, we anticipate that significant numbers of staff or students could be required to complete a period of self-isolation or quarantine due to potential exposure to COVID19. As a result, District 7 is planning for how instruction will be conducted for students and by staff who are required to self-isolate without being ill. This will include ensuring that teachers have the resources to conduct distance learning

 

Learning Model 2: Hybrid/Modified Scheduling(Employed During Medium COVID-19 Spread)

This model is most likely to be experienced during a period of medium spread of COVID-19 in Spartanburg County. In this scenario, a portion of our staff and students will report to a physical school building while others will engage in distance learning. 

In this scenario, District 7 will prioritize in-person instruction for the following groups while complying with prevailing health and safety requirements:

  1. Pre-K and Elementary
  2. Students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs)
  3. English Language learners
  4. High school students in CTE programs that require hands-on experiences or access to specialized equipment

In order to maximize access to school facilities for these groups, District 7 will need to consider alternative placement of classes to comply with health guidelines.  As a result, District 7 may consider having certain groups (for example, elementary) report to a school building daily while other groups (middle and high) engage in distance learning.

District 7 may also consider split-schedule models for all students, such as alternating days, where cohorts of students attend school for the entire day for a portion of the week. For example, half of the students might attend on Monday and Wednesday while the other half attend on Tuesday and Thursday. On Fridays:

  • Students would engage in distance learning when appropriate
  • Teachers have opportunities for planning and grading
  • Staff will engage in a comprehensive deep cleaning of school buildings

Learning Model 3: Full eLearning(Employed During High COVID-19 Spread)

In this scenario, all District 7 students and staff are unable to return to a physical school building due to high spread of COVID-19 in the area. In this event, Spartanburg 7 will rely on a full eLearning learning schedule until the health situation permits a return to one of the other models. While this is similar in concept to what we implemented in spring 2020, eLearning for the 2020-2021 school year will look considerably different by taking a true distance learning format in order to deliver quality instruction in a remote setting.

The following expectations will be put into practice:

  1. eLearning Plan - While we have served as a pilot district for eLearning for two years, long-term distance learning requires a clearly defined plan that is communicated to all stakeholders and includes what should be expected by and from students, teachers, and families. Our plan will be responsive to lessons learned by the district in the spring of 2020 along with feedback provide by our families during this time.

  2. eLearning Delivery from Schools – In order to achieve quality eLearning delivery, teachers will report to their classrooms to conduct eLearning during the regular school day (while following CDC guidelines). The goal for eLearning will be to mimic a virtual learning environment as closely as possible, with regular interaction and instruction between teachers and students. 

  3. Building Relationships - In the event of eLearning at the start of the year, District 7 will carefully consider ways to build initial relationships among our teachers, students and families. This will be a unique challenge compared to the spring 2020 when teachers already had established relationships. Ideas could include scheduling digital “open house” events prior to the start of the school year or giving teachers dedicated work time to engage in outreach to their new students/families.

  4. Two-Way Communication: In addition to providing regular and detailed communication to families, staff, and students, District 7 will provide regular opportunities for collecting feedback from families, staff, and students to identify areas of strength and of concern regarding the eLearning format.

  5. Reducing Transport of School Materials - We are reviewing instructional practices to determine ways to minimize the amount of materials being transported between school and home by students and staff. While it is impossible to eliminate all transport of materials, finding ways to reduce transport will be emphasized and encouraged. 
  6. Technology Assistance Hubs - As we did this spring, District 7 will offer physical locations with regular hours where students and staff can have access to technology support. It will also be our goal to provide support for students and families who lack transportation to these locations. 
  7. Meeting the Needs of Special Populations - In the event of full eLearning, District 7 will be especially mindful of meeting the needs of special populations of students.

 

Learning Model 4: Semester-Long District 7 Virtual School(Optional for Families)

 In an effort to expand educational opportunities for students, school districts across Spartanburg County will collaborate to offer a virtual school aimed at providing a high-quality web-based learning initiative. Designed as a semester-long online alternative to in-person instruction, the Spartanburg School District 7 Virtual School will provide a comprehensive, standards-based program that can be easily accessed anywhere an internet connection is available. This platform is suited best for middle to high school level students. 

The virtual program provides students an opportunity to complete grade level course requirements in a semester-long or year-long format.  Students will complete all assignments via APEX, an online curriculum platform for high school and middle school students. 

Students in the virtual program will be monitored by certified teachers and dedicated staff members to verify students are working and completing assignments in APEX. If a student is not meeting the weekly requirements in APEX, parents will be contacted and the student will need to come into the school building for support.

Students participating in this program will have the option to pick up “Grab and Go” meals from designated sites to be determined.

For more information, visit https://www.apexlearning.com/solutions/virtual-learning

 

Return to Learn Frequently Asked Questions

 

GENERAL INFORMATION

What is the District’s plan for back to school 2020-2021?

Spartanburg School District 7’s Return to Learn plan outlines the considerations for what school may look like. Our preferred model of instructional delivery is the traditional educational environment, but due to anticipated public health restrictions, we must consider additional options. This draft plan of four optional models is based on available public health information at the time of its creation. The plan will change based on newly available data and guidance from public health officials.  

How was this draft developed? Will District 7 staff and parents be able to share their feedback about the plan? 

This document presents the District’s current thinking. It represents weeks of research, scenario modeling, and work from District 7’s dedicated and talented staff along with guidance from our Department of Education, neighboring school districts, medical experts and public health officials. We are actively soliciting input from our employees and parents/guardians. Our goal is to listen to ALL District 7 stakeholders so we can provide the very best, and safest, education for our students.

When does school officially start for Spartanburg School District 7 students for the 2020-2021 school year?

The official school start day, as of right now, will be Monday, August 17. However, this is subject to change based on new information that develops this summer, additional planning time needed for teachers, building reconfigurations, etc. Therefore, the start date could be pushed until later. We don’t anticipate this happening, but we can’t be certain at this time.   

 

HEALTH AND SAFETY

Will there be a limit on the number of people allowed in a classroom? (Students plus teacher)

There are state and local public health orders limiting the size of group gatherings with a 6-foot physical distancing expectation. We will know more about group gathering limitations when information becomes available later this summer.  

What is the plan for cleaning schools during the school week?

Spartanburg School District 7’s maintenance, custodial, transportation and food service teams are dedicated to providing a clean, safe, and well-maintained environment that supports all educational activities. The focus on cleaning includes an emphasis on disinfection of health sensitive areas, where bacteria or viruses are most likely to be transmitted. 

What if a school receives word of a positive COVID-19 test in the traditional or hybrid environment? Will a school have to close or not allow specific people in the building?

The Spartanburg County Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) will assist District 7’s health and leadership teams in determining a course of action for individual schools on a case-by-case basis. The school building will be closed for consecutive days if someone in the school tests positive for COVID-19. Yes, there will be school closures and yes, there will be contact tracing.

 

LEARNING MODELS  

What are the Learning models being considered for the upcoming school year?

The models we are considering include: 

1. Traditional – Full, in-person learning (provided health guidelines and restrictions are lifted)

2. Hybrid/Modified Learning - A combination of remote learning and in-person learning (students likely attend on an alternate day schedule)

3. eLearning - Learning in a remote environment for all students. Instruction will be synchronous (live video conference) and asynchronous (recorded lessons).

4. Virtual School – Students may enroll in the District 7 Virtual School offered in collaboration with all Spartanburg County school districts for semester-long coursework. Students must have access to internet in order to participate. Students will not be able to move between learning models during the semester.

If my child attends in-person learning at school, will they attend for a half-day or full-day?

Students will have a full-day of learning when they engage with in-person learning.  However, at the high school level, schedules may be shifted so that students arrive late or depart early. 

 

TECHNOLOLGY AND INTERNET ACCESS

If a student wishes to attend the virtual school or is required to participate in eLearning for a short or extended period, will internet access be available to support families without it? 

Students in grades 3 – 12 will be provided a district-issued MacBook Air laptop computer.  School parking lots will remain available for families to download information or access the district’s Wi-Fi network. We will continue to send Wi-Fi buses to designated locations in our community. A limited number of “Wi-Fi hotspots” will be available to support families. It is important that all families complete the feedback survey so we can assess the degree to which home internet access is an issue for our students. We will also be partnering with a number of agencies to provide safe places to access the internet.

 

STUDENT MEALS

Will Grab-and-Go Meals and Bus Delivery still be available during the school week for students who are not learning in person?  

Regardless of which learning model is in place, our Food & Nutrition Services will continue to operate and provide meals to students. The service may be a combination of in-school serving plus the “Grab-and-Go” program conducted during the spring 2020 semester. Please be on the lookout for additional information in this area. 

 

STUDENT SUPPORT

How will my child be supported if they require additional support for unique learning needs?

Special education providers will continue to support students with unique needs by working with students and their families so they can be successful whether students are remote, in-person or virtual. 

In a hybrid setting, families and staff will discuss and agree to a set of prioritized services to be delivered in person, when possible. Other services will continue remotely as specified in the Remote IEP Services Plan. This includes students who are receiving Occupational and/or Physical Therapy, Speech, 504 Plans, IEP’s, etc.  Information will be forthcoming about specific services as we learn more. 

Each school’s Gifted and Talented (GT) teacher will be available to support families, staff and students, in both hybrid and remote environments. We will continue to support GT students through goal setting and progress monitoring throughout the year.

 

ATHLETICS

What about athletics for the upcoming school year?

On June 15, our fall athletes began phasing back into interscholastic athletic activities.  Spartanburg High School has been given specific guidance for returning to workouts while adhering to state and local guidelines in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our workout plan is set up in phases and the transition from one phase to the next can only be accomplished by meeting guideline criteria. Workouts remain voluntary for students in accordance with the South Carolina High School League (SCHSL) and all District 7 coaches are required to follow these guidelines.  

The SCHSL provides ongoing parameters for the Viking sports and activities program. The league called for the suspension of all spring sports and activities in the 2020 school year. Direction has not yet been provided for the fall 2020. Spartanburg School District 7 will continue to promote and support student participation in athletic and activity programs to the extent permitted in the fall.