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Beaufort County public schools to resume face-to-face instruction in hybrid model Oct. 5

From staff reports

BEAUFORT – The Beaufort County School District will resume face-to-face educational instruction in a hybrid model beginning Oct. 5.

The announcement came at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting.

“The district’s position has always been that we would return to traditional methods of teaching when it was safe to do so,” Superintendent Frank Rodriguez said in a news release.

Rodriguez noted that the district’s risk factors for COVID-19 published by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control have decreased significantly in recent weeks.

“The common-sense precautions we’re now taking in our day-to-day lives have produced very positive results,” the superintendent said. “In order for us to begin face-to-face instruction – and then to continue face-to-face instruction – all of us have to remain vigilant and stay safe.”

In a hybrid AA/BB model, half of the school’s population who registered for face-to-face instruction will attend school on Monday and Tuesday and the other half will attend on Thursday and Friday. While schools are deep cleaned on Wednesday, all students will receive live virtual instruction at home. On the days when students are not receiving live-instruction they will be completing independent work that builds on what they were exposed to in class.

Schools will notify families next week so they can plan for their child’s AA/BB schedule. Siblings will be assigned the same schedules whenever possible.

Students whose parents have chosen all-virtual learning will continue their academic work online.

Assuming that DHEC’s COVID-19 metrics continue to decrease, the district will transition to traditional in-person classes five days a week when it is safe to do so.

“Given the uncertainty of this pandemic,” Rodriguez said, “we can’t make promises on when that will happen. But we will conduct a comprehensive evaluation each week in case infection rates increase again, which might require us to take a different course.”

In a related development, the district also announced that it is terminating its relationship with K12 Learning Solutions, an online learning management platform.

“While we believe that K12 provides a quality product, I’ve been disappointed in the company’s ability to meet our expectations,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve been trying to work through our frustrations with K12 in recent weeks, but when our students and teachers are impacted, we needed to move quickly to find a better course.”

Duke Bradley, the deputy superintendent and chief of schools, said the break with K12 would not create significant problems.

“Our hope was that K12 would help to make the online learning experience more seamless and easier to manage for teachers,” he said. “But we never viewed their product as the only way to deliver high-quality instruction. Ultimately we place our greatest confidence in the competence and dedication of our teachers, not in technology.”

Bradley said the district already has the essentials needed to provide quality instruction. “We have clear standards and a viable curriculum that will lead to academic success if it’s taught with rigor and consistency.”

The district will continue to rely on other online platforms like Zoom, Google Classroom and Seesaw, and will also investigate additional web-based teaching supplements to ensure that students and teachers have the resources they need to be effective in their work.

Since district schools began the academic year in an all-virtual capacity on Sept. 8, the district has received considerable feedback from parents.

“I have listened intently to the concerns expressed by our stakeholders, especially the parents who have offered individual testimonies about how virtual instruction is not ideal for their children,” Rodriguez said. “It pained me greatly to hear these stories.”

“At the same time, I’ve been encouraged by the many success stories and the positive experiences that students and parents have related.

“It’s my hope that offering a hybrid model – with the ultimate goal of eventually resuming face-to-face instruction five days a week – will relieve some of the burden on families sooner rather than later while still protecting the health and safety of our students, our employees, our families and our community.”

Rodriguez said the district has prepared extensive safety precautions in place to protect students and staff in school buildings.

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