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Laurens County School District #55 (LCSD 55) has been preparing for a return to school in the fall of 2020.

The recent release of the AccelerateED Task Force (AETF): Guidance and Recommendations for the 2020-21 School Year highlights the complexity of the multi-layered decision-making process.

According to LCSD 55 Superintendent, Dr. Ameca Thomas, “All decisions for re-entry will be made with the safety and well-being of students and staff at the forefront.” 

Phase one recommendations from the AETF includes the creation of a local task force for planning the opening of schools. This is already in place for LCSD 55 and its purpose is to be the hub for big-picture, pandemic related, school re-entry planning.

Thomas says, “We are looking into the best ways to continue educating our children while also following proper safety protocols.”

Another phase one step is an early survey of parent/family/staff preferences, which LCSD 55 has completed. The results of the survey show a wide range of preferences. A normal 5-day per week face-to-face schedule was preferred by only 23.6% of survey respondents. Another 17.5% indicated they favored all e-learning with no face-to-face interaction.

When considering alternative schedules, 16.5% recommended staggered days and another 8.8% recommended staggered morning/afternoon schedules to minimize the number of students on campus at any given time. Another 6.2% of respondents indicated a preference for a start date after Labor Day with a normal 5-day week. These are the top five responses to the survey.

The balance of the responses were spread across multiple options (a cumulative total of 27.4%). Finally, results of the survey also indicate that some families are planning to keep their children at home. The district is working on a Virtual Academy option to serve these children.

The local task force is looking for answers to key questions such as what measures are health experts recommending for minimizing the risk of infection and what are the latest guidelines from federal, state, and local governments? Of course, the AETF, in its report, has provided a menu of options for school districts to consider. These include the review of school calendars, the development of distance learning contingency plans, daily health reporting, cleaning protocols, classroom/facility reconfiguration for social distancing, and preparing to meet the social-emotional needs of students.

The LCSD 55 COVID-19 Task Force will meet again on July 7, 2020 to discuss both structure and logistics and program delivery models for curriculum and instruction (including both academic and social-emotional learning). Thomas is committed to keeping families and staff in the loop, saying, “We hope to have final plans in place by mid-July. We ask our constituents to please be patient as COVID-19 remains a fluid situation.”