As Greenville County Students prepare for the Christmas break, we reached out to Tim Waller to get an update on where things stood regarding the return to in-person classes and Greenville’s rising Covid-19 numbers. We also wanted to know if Virtual Classes have made every students two favorite words – “Snow Day” – a thing of the past.
How has the transition to 5 days a week instruction gone for elementary and middle school students and how are teachers responding?
The transition to five-day-a-week instruction has gone remarkably well. As you might remember, we have been able to equip each and every classroom with plexiglass dividers that provide an additional measure of safety. At the middle school level, we are utilizing large spaces such as media centers and auditoriums for certain classes to ensure a safe distance between students. Plus, teachers have altered their bell schedules to prevent large numbers of students from entering hallways at the same time. Many of our teachers were nervous about increasing the number of in-person instruction days at the middle school level. While it’s too early to know how the majority feels at this point, we plan to follow up with them once the transition is complete to address any remaining concerns.
How are Covid infections among your teaching staff affecting your push to continue in person instruction? Is there a risk that staffing issues may force in person classes to be curtailed?
There is always a chance that COVID-19 could force a return to Attendance Plan Zero, which is 100-percent eLearning. Our superintendent, Dr. Royster, has advised teachers and parents on several occasions that a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases could put in-person instruction on hold temporarily. However, despite the record number of cases being reported both in Greenville County and across the state, we are not seeing significant increases within our school district.
Yes, we’ve seen plenty of teachers and students test positive for COVID-19 since the school year began, but our daily case numbers have held steady throughout most of the semester. In fact, based on contact tracing, we believe the majority of people who have tested positive contracted the virus outside of school—while at social gatherings or athletic events. Dr. Royster believes students are actually safer in school than they are when they’re not in our care. Is there a risk that staffing issues may force in-person classes to be curtailed? Of course, and not just from COVID-19. Flu season combined with a substitute teacher shortage could bring things to a screeching halt.
Greenville’s percent positivity rate today was 23%. Is there a hard number at which Greenville will have to return to all virtual classes?
There really isn’t a hard number or a single set of circumstances that would force a return to 100-percent eLearning. A return to eLearning could be based on one or several things. For example, if doctors tell us there have been several large outbreaks in the county and they don’t feel in-person instruction is safe, we would go to Attendance Plan Zero. Or if our COVID “risk ratio” rises to the level of Greenville County’s, we would likely return to all virtual. The bottom line is this: we will always put safety first when determining our next move.
What is the plan for winter sports?
Winter sports is a go! In fact, it’s going on right now. Basketball and wrestling started not too long ago. Volleyball, which is another indoor sport, started around the time football fired up. But no matter which sport we’re talking about, all are subject to strict safety protocols designed to reduce the spread of the virus.
Is the Snow Day Gone Forever?
As a student, snow day were the best two words I could hear. With zoom, is the snow day dead?
Please don’t shoot the messenger, but yes, snow days are a thing of the past. Thanks to Google Classroom and other educational platforms, and the fact that all Greenville County School students have Chromebooks, we now have the ability to conduct online classes even if there’s a foot of snow on the ground. An exception to this might be if a storm knocks out electricity or internet service to large numbers of students and teachers. In that case, classes will resume as soon as everything is back on.
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