Posted: Wednesday, October 7, 2020

GCS to return elementary students to full-time in-person instruction

Plan approved by DHEC to prevent “close contact”

As Greenville County Schools’ first graders continue their transition to five-day-a-week in-person classes, all remaining elementary students in the traditional school program (not Virtual Program) will move toward full-time in-person classes as well. This phased-in return to the classroom, announced today by Superintendent W. Burke Royster, begins with K4 and K5 students who will be able to socially distance by utilizing extra space in school facilities and splitting time between the teacher and the aide.  Other elementary grades will return on a staggered schedule using a combination of plexiglass, masks, and a specific classroom layout to ensure safety.

“We’re pleased to announce another significant step towards safe, five-day in-person learning,” Dr. Royster said. “This step would not be possible without DHEC Interim Director of Public Health Dr. Brannon Traxler’s willingness to approve a plexiglass system of our design and specifically stating that students who are seated in this system are not considered to be close contacts with one another, as defined by DHEC for the purposes of quarantining.”

The $5 million worth of plexiglass provided free-of-charge by the SC Department of Education will allow up to four students wearing masks to sit in clusters with three feet of social distance and a plexiglass barrier between them. Each four-student cluster will be separated by six feet. Because the plexiglass extends past the table’s edge and is tall enough to provide protection, a student’s positive COVID test will not result in quarantines for the other three students in the cluster, so long as all safety protocols were followed.  Chief among these safety protocols is the wearing of masks.  Unlike kindergarten and first grade students, who will continue to be socially distanced, students in grades 2-5 will be required to wear a mask during instruction, unless they have a medical or cognitive exemption.

“For the past six weeks, teachers in our traditional model have been supporting two instructional platforms:  in-person instruction and online eLearning,” said Royster. “Planning and delivering content over two platforms is very time-consuming and presents both teachers and parents with multiple challenges.  Those challenges are even greater for teachers and parents working with our youngest students.  This plan will remove the burden of eLearning from our elementary teachers, return those students to daily in-person instruction, and provide a safe learning environment that protects the health of students and staff.”

The move to five-day-a-week face-to-face (F2F) elementary classes began with first graders on the week of September 30. On Monday, October 12, first grade students will start their first full week of in-person classes. Students in 4K and 5K will begin a phased-in return to school that same week by attending either Monday or Tuesday, based on their color group.  All 4K and 5K students in the traditional program will attend Wednesday and Thursday, October 14-15.  The next week they will attend four days, Monday-Thursday, and beginning October 26, they will settle into regular five-day-a-week attendance. Like first graders, kindergartners will not need plexiglass dividers since their workspaces will be socially distanced.

GCS teachers were surveyed last week to determine their perception of compliance with protocols in GCS schools as well as their comfort level with in-person instruction. Among the 3,800 teachers who responded to the survey, 83.5% reported protocols such as mask wearing and social distancing have been followed with little to no resistance, while an additional 12.7% reported employees have done well, but students have been less compliant.  Similarly, 82.1% of teachers indicated that have felt very safe (42%) or somewhat safe (40.1%) from COVID while at work this fall.  Like much of the country, GCS teachers are divided over returning to full-time in-person instruction: just over 51% of all teachers reported feeling comfortable with the idea of moving to five-days-a-week face-to-face instruction when in accord with DHEC regulations, with 60% of elementary teachers indicating they were comfortable. GCS will continue to monitor both compliance with these protocols and the number of COVID cases among students and staff. A significant change in either could result in a return to a hybrid schedule or 100% eLearning.

Elementary grades are transitioning to full-time F2F school on the following schedule, which is contingent upon receiving the necessary supplies for plexiglass dividers for elementary classrooms and stable COVID infection rates among students and staff:

4K & 5K

Week of October 12 

  • Students will attend Monday or Tuesday, based on color group
  • Students will attend Wednesday & Thursday, October 14 & 15
  • Week of October 19 is the first full week of attendance (4 Days because October 23 is a professional development day) 
  • Week of October 26 will be first full 5-day week
  • 4K and 5K students will be expected to wear masks when moving through the building

1st Grade – already underway

Week of September 30

  • Students attended Monday or Tuesday, based on color group
  • Students attended Wednesday & Thursday, September 30 & October 1 
  • Week of October 12 will be first full 5-day week

2nd Grade

Week of October 19 

  • Students will attend Monday or Tuesday, based on color group
  • Students will attend Wednesday & Thursday, October 21 & 22
  • Week of October 26 will be first full 5-day week

3rd Grade

Week of October 26

  • Students will attend Monday or Tuesday, based on color group
  • Students will attend Wednesday & Thursday, October 28 & 29
  • Week of November 2 will be first full week (4 days because Election Day is the Nov. 3) 

4th Grade & 5th Grade

Week of November 2

  • Students in Blue and Green color groups will attend Monday
  • Tuesday is a school holiday due to Election Day – no students attend
  • Students will attend Wednesday and Thursday, November 4 & 5
  • Week of November 9 is first full 5-day week

By the week of November 9, all elementary students will be attending full five-day weeks. Again, this phased-in schedule is contingent upon plexiglass supplies arriving on time and the COVID-19 spread-rate remaining at a manageable level.  This plan does not impact students in the GCS virtual program.

Updated DHEC guidance on plexiglass

Limited Face-to-Face Phase-in K-1st Grade

Limited Face-to-Face Phase-in Grades 2-5

Regreso Gradual Presencial Limitado K-1er grado

Regreso Gradual Presencial Limitado Grados 2-5


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