Pre-K, kindergarten, 1st grade can begin hybrid classes in Sumter School District Oct. 1

English learners, special education students in all grades start earlier, Sept. 28


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For Sumter's youngest students and those who receive supplemental supports, Sumter School District will move to a hybrid/blended model of instruction on Oct. 1 and Sept. 28, respectively.

Superintendent Penelope Martin-Knox distributed a letter Friday afternoon to parents and families of district students to provide an update on Phase 1 of the instructional transition.

According to her statement, English language learners and students who receive special education services in the district in all grades, pre-K-12, will begin blended instruction in just over a week on Monday, Sept. 28. Pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade students will move to a blended model later that same week on Thursday, Oct. 1.

In the blended learning model, students will be divided into two groups. Group A will receive face-to-face classroom instruction on Mondays and Thursdays each week and virtual instruction remotely on Tuesdays and Fridays. Group B will have the reverse scenario: face-to-face classroom instruction on Tuesdays and Fridays and virtual instruction on Mondays and Thursdays. Both groups will continue to learn asynchronously - meaning independently and online that is not real-time instruction - on Wednesdays. On that day, teachers and staff will receive professional development, and staff will deep clean school facilities.

Martin-Knox said schools will provide families with additional information on class assignments and bus schedules.

As an important note, she added parents do have the option to keep their children in virtual instruction, if they desire to do so as a safety precaution, for the entire semester.

"We will do our best to honor the preferences of our parents as we continue to keep the safety of our students and staff at the forefront of every decision that is made," Martin-Knox said.

The district will continue to re-evaluate and reassess data from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, staffing and logistics every two weeks, according to spokeswoman Shelly Galloway. When the district's virtual reopening plan was approved last month by the state Department of Education, both entities agreed to two-week reviews on whether in-person offerings were safe for children and adults.

Timing of Phase 2 of the district's hybrid plan - to include reintroducing second-, third- and sixth-grade students, as well as some high schoolers - will be contingent on schools' COVID-19 rate data from DHEC, Martin-Knox said. Families will be notified in a timely manner before a transition to Phase 2 begins, she added.

As students are moving to a hybrid model, Martin-Knox said it's important for parents and families to remind children of safety guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to include the importance of staying 6 feet apart, wearing masks, washing hands and following school bus and classroom safety protocols. Additionally, parents should advise students should not share supplies, masks or food.