Education

Snow may not mean make-up days in the classroom in Rock Hill, Clover. Here’s why.

Even if make-up days are needed in 2019-’20, Rock Hill and Clover students may not have to be in the classroom.

Both school districts have been selected to participate in the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee eLearning days pilot program.

In the event of school closing due to inclement weather, students can access assignments via laptops or other devices, eliminating the need to bring students in for a make-up day, a release from the Rock Hill school district states.

“The project will help parents/guardians, who will be able to plan summer activities without having to consider some makeup days,” according to the Rock Hill school district.

The eLearning days will only be used when educators can prepare lessons and provide them to students ahead of time, said Beth Goff, director of Instructional Technology for the Clover school district.

“If we can’t prepare appropriately, we’re not going to call it,” she said. “It’s not fair to anybody in the system.”

If the district knows inclement weather is coming, teachers will prepare eLearning lessons ahead of the potential missed day, Goff said. The lessons aim to fulfill the 200 minutes of instructional time required to count for a day’s attendance.

For teachers, eLearning is “not necessarily more work, it’s different work,” Goff said.

“Blended learning isn’t new, we are just going to use it in a different way for these inclement weather events,” she said.

One benefit of eLearning is keeping instruction within the same semester, rather than making up time later in the year, said Bryan Dillon, spokesperson for the Clover school district.

If school closes unexpectedly, the district will use make-up days allotted on the calendar, Dillon said. District leaders have the option to designate those as eLearning days.

The process is similar for Rock Hill students.

Under state law, students have to make up the first three days of missed school. After that, the school board can vote to waive up to three more missed days.

In Rock Hill, up to two make-up days in the spring semester can be eLearning days, according to the district.

Clover did not set limits on the number of eLearning days allowed during a school year, Goff said.

“We want it to be flexible,” she said. “We want to use it when it’s best.”

The districts will ensure that all students, whether or not they have been issued a device from their school, will be able to participate in eLearning.

“Provisions will be made so that all K-12 students, regardless of technology and information access at home, have access to the eLearning resources and materials,” the Rock Hill release states.

Goff said Clover plans to print packets for younger students who do not take home their district-assigned iPads and for any other student who may not be able to complete an assignment on their school devices at home.

Students will have school days after the missed day to complete the make-up assignments, allowing them time to get support from their teacher if needed and take advantage of the day missed, Goff said.

“I want families to play together and have fun outside if the inclement weather is something they can experience and enjoy,” she said.

In Clover, students have three school days on top of the eLearning day to complete their assignments, Goff said. Any students who do not complete their work in that time frame will be marked absent for the day missed, she said.

In Rock Hill, students have up to five days after the eLearning day to complete the work.

“It really is something that has been intentionally planned and designed to benefit our students,” Goff said.

Clover staff also will be able to make up missed time through online training, Dillon said. Rock Hill leaders will provide training for how eLearning will affect all employees, according to the district.

Rock Hill and Clover are among 10 new districts chosen for the pilot program’s second year. The pilot’s 2018-’19 school districts - Anderson 5, Kershaw, Pickens, Spartanburg 1 and Spartanburg 7 - are included again this school year, according to the oversight committee.

Year 1 districts will support schools new to the program during 2019-’20, according to the committee.

“The goal of the project is to expand eLearning to more districts throughout the state,” Melanie Barton, executive director of the committee, said in a prepared statement. “Clearly, there is strong interest in our state for the initiative.”

“What makes this program so special is that the idea for using online learning for school make-up days came from district leaders and is being sustained and expanded due to their work and initiative,” she said.

By June 1, 2020, the S.C. Education Oversight Committee must report recommendations for how the eLearning initiative may be expanded statewide to the state department, General Assembly, governor and state education board, according to the committee.

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.
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