Sumter School District announces next round of students to return to classroom

3 full grades plus high schoolers by last name can return Oct. 26

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For three more grades of younger students and roughly half of the county’s high schoolers, Sumter School District will move to a hybrid/blended model of instruction in about two weeks. 

Superintendent Penelope Martin-Knox distributed a letter Friday afternoon to parents and families of district students to provide an update on Phase 2 of the instructional transition, amid the pandemic. 

According to her statement, all second-, third-, and sixth-grade students and high school students with last names beginning with A-L will move to a blended model on Monday, Oct. 26.

Then, 10 days later, on Thursday, Nov. 5, all fourth-, five- and seventh-grade students and high school students with last names beginning with M-Z are tentatively scheduled to begin Phase 3 of the hybrid transition.

The final transition, Phase 4, is tentatively scheduled to begin Thursday, Nov. 12, to include eighth-graders and all high school students, regardless of last name.

In the blended learning model, students are divided into two groups. Group A will receive face-to-face instruction in the classroom on Mondays and Thursdays and virtual instruction remotely from home 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 – independently and online that is not real-time instruction but prerecorded lessons – on Wednesdays. On that day, teachers and staff will receive professional development, and staff will deep clean school facilities.

Parents have the option to keep their children in virtual instruction for the entire semester.

Martin-Knox said schools will provide families with additional information on class assignments and bus schedules. The district will do its best to honor the preferences of parents and keep siblings together, Martin-Knox said.

Phases 3 and 4 will be contingent on schools’ COVID-19 rates from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control and staffing availability, she added.

According to DHEC’s public dashboard on COVID-19 cases associated with staff and students, four district schools have reported cases, all less than five each. Only one school has reported cases within the past 30 days. Statewide, there have been more than 1,100 cases associated with students and staff who have attended school or worked on campus regularly.

DHEC shows Sumter has a moderate two-week cumulative incident rate of cases with a seven-day moving daily average of six, the lowest it has been since before the summer surge.

As students are moving to the 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, students should not share supplies, masks, food or water bottles. 

The Phase 1 transition was for pre-K, kindergarten and first-grade students and began last week on Oct. 1. For students who receive supplemental supports, to include English language learners and students in special education classes in all grades, the blended learning model began Sept. 28.

The district was one of 14 across the state to begin the year in a fully virtual capacity. Sumter started on Aug. 28.