Darlington County School District announces ‘virtual academy’ for students, releases revised 2020-2021 calendar

Darlington County School District announces ‘virtual academy’ for students, releases revised 2020-2021 calendar
The Darlington County School District has approved a virtual option for students this fall. (Source: Cameron Crowe WMBF)

DARLINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – The Darlington County School District has approved a virtual option for students this fall.

The Darlington County Virtual Academy, a K-12 program, will operate completely online, according to press release from the district.

The new virtual option and a revised start date of Sept. 8 were both approved during a board meeting Monday night.

Online registration will open July 15 for both traditional and virtual options.

“I commend the board for working hard to do what is right for our kids and for our employees,” said Superintendent Dr. Tim Newman. “The board has worked many hours and talked to many stakeholders and employees. There were no right answers, and we may still have to shift due to the science of the virus. But we are committed to providing quality education while doing all we can to ensure the safety and well-being of our students and staff.”

Officials said a back-to-school task force of parents, teachers, principals, students, medical practitioners, and district officials helped shape the reopening plan.

Certain safety measures will be in place for in-person instruction, including social distancing, adequate spacing between desks, new procedures for lunchtime and recess, masks for students and staff, additional personal protective equipment as required, regular and frequent cleaning and full-time nurses at every campus.

According to the release, students and staff will be required to wear masks while at school. Cloth face masks will be provided by the school district.

If district or state officials determine the district cannot safely open in-person daily instruction due to the COVID-19, the district may operate on a virtual schedule.

“The Virtual Academy will provide rigorous, structured, organized instruction with local teachers. Unlike eLearning, which was implemented under emergency conditions during last spring’s school shutdown, students in the Darlington County Virtual Academy will have a normal daily instructional schedule, earn grades, and receive timely teacher feedback in response to class or homework,” the release stated.

In addition, officials said teachers experienced in online platforms and virtual instruction will support engagement using live and recorded lessons and tutorials.

Students in the virtual program will be provided the necessary technology to participate, however reliable internet is required.

“The Virtual Academy will shift some DCSD teachers from traditional classrooms to virtual classrooms. To ensure proper staffing of both the Virtual Academy and the traditional schools, students who enroll in the Virtual Academy will remain in the Virtual Academy for the entire school year. Students who desire to transfer back into a traditional school may be able to do so at the semester break in January, providing there is space available in the traditional school,” the release stated.

The school district said more information will be provided to parents in the coming days.

Also on Wednesday, the school district released its revised calendar for the 2020-2021 school year. In addition to the new Sept. 8 start date, some other changes include:

· All professional development days were moved to the beginning of the school year to allow teachers time and training to prepare for the new COVID-19 procedures.

· The district removed the inclement weather days from the calendar. This year, if schools are closed for inclement weather, those days will become eLearning days for all students.

· Nov. 3 is an eLearning day for all students. Schools will be closed, and staff and students will operate from home. This will allow staff and students to continue the learning process while allowing school buildings to be closed for the general election. The district may add additional eLearning days throughout the year.

· One day of Christmas vacation was switched to a school day.

· Half days were added in February and March to provide teachers with work time without students present. Students will be dismissed before lunch.

· One half-day was added in June to allow teachers to close out for the school year.

· High schools will have a half-day on June 11. Elementary and middle school students will have a full day of school on that day. On June 18, elementary and middle school students will have a half-day.

The revised calendar can be found below:

Revised calendar for Darlington County schools for the 2020-2021 school year
Revised calendar for Darlington County schools for the 2020-2021 school year (Source: Darlington County School District)

Copyright 2020 WMBF. All rights reserved.