BACK TO SCHOOL SAFELY
Welcome to the Back-2-School Safely home page! This page is your online destination for information related to the return to school for the 2020-21 school year as well as instructional model updates and the latest school district Covid-19 data.
All Aiken County Public School students began the 2020-21 school year on Monday, August 31. Please see the infographic below showing the current instructional model schedule for parents/students. The infographic will be updated this weekend to reflect the March 1, 2021, transition to a five-day instructional model. This information is subject to change.
2/22/21 UPDATE: Aiken County Superintendent King Laurence announced on Monday, February 22, 2021, that all students currently attending in-person instruction through the school district's Hybrid instructional model will transition to a traditional, five-day instructional model beginning Monday, March 1, 2021. This change in instructional model DOES NOT affect students currently enrolled in the school district's all-virtual instructional model through AIKEN iNNOVATE. Individual school positive case and quarantine data will continue to be monitored daily and schools exceeding established threshholds of 3 percent in positive student cases or 25 percent in teacher/staff quarantines will be transitioned to either the Hybrid instructional model or remote learning until those numbers return to acceptable levels supporting five-day instruction.
2/9/21 UPDATE: Aiken County Superintendent King Laurence will meet with the Back-to-School Advisory Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, to discuss the next steps for the District's instructional models and whether ACPSD schools will remain in their current models or return to five-day instruction beyond February 28, 2021. Superintendent Laurence will announce his recommendation to the Aiken County Board of Education during the board's regular meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 23, 2021, beginning at 6:00 p.m. The meeting may be viewed live online on our District website's home page.
BACK 2 SCHOOL SAFELY
Our District Administration and Board greatly appreciate the involvement of our Back-2-School Task Force, Superintendent Advisory Council Members, the South Carolina Education Association, Medical Advisors, and the thousands of parents, students, teachers, and staff who helped guide the work of the Back to School Task Force who developed our plans.
Students/Families will have two options for the 2020-2021 school year:
OPTION ONE: A more traditional educational model that will begin with a hybrid of some in-classroom days mixed with remote learning and independent practice with teacher support, with a goal to reach and sustain five-days a week of in-person learning (as soon as it is safe to do so).
OPTION TWO: A full-time virtual option called AIKEN iNNOVATE. The application process for AIKEN iNNOVATE opened on July 9th and closed at midnight on July 22nd. For more information and/or to add your student to the waiting list, visit the AIKEN iNNOVATE page.
All Aiken County Public School students, traditional and AIKEN iNNOVATE, will begin the 2020-2021 school year on Monday, August 31.
Aiken County Public Schools has purchased technology/laptops for all students enrolled in AIKEN iNNOVATE, as well as all students in the more traditional option in grades three-twelve. Student devices will be necessary for AIKEN iNNOVATE, our full-time virtual option. Additionally, student laptops will provide greater continuity of instruction for students in the more traditional option, particularly during the Hybrid Model as students will be able to download videos, powerpoints, lessons, etc. while in school and bring those teacher lessons and supports home to utilize during their days of remote learning (at home).
Families interested in more information on AIKEN iNNOVATE, our full-time virtual option, are encouraged to visit the AIKEN iNNOVATE page for comprehensive information, including questions/answers.
TRANSITION TO TRADITIONAL EDUCATION MODEL
Students/Families who would prefer more in-person instruction should simply complete the regular registration process.
This more traditional educational option will begin in a Hybrid Model on August 31. In the Hybrid Model, students will come to school in-person two days each week and learn remotely (at home) the remaining three days. The Hybrid Model reduces class sizes by half for in-person learning days to provide for safer distancing of students.
With the Hybrid Model, students are split into two groups-Blue and Red. Students/Families (all students within a household) will be assigned to the same color group and will attend school in-person on the same days. We appreciate the continued patience of our parents/guardians as our schools work across levels, feeder patterns, and special permission circumstances to ensure that color groups are consistent for families.
Students/families assigned to the Blue Color Group will attend school in person on Monday and Tuesday, and learn remotely with pre-recorded teacher videos, voice-overlay on powerpoints, and through teaching guides and practice at home Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
Students/families assigned to the Red Color Group will attend school in person on Wednesday and Thursday, and learn remotely with pre-recorded teacher videos, voice-overlay on powerpoints, and through teaching guides and practice at home Monday, Tuesday, and Friday.
Students will remain in a Hybrid Model until such time as it is safe for all students to return to classrooms five days a week.
The spread of coronavirus in our community and within our schools will be closely monitored. Transitions are possible to Remote Learning (at home) for an individual student or group of students (on quarantine), a classroom, a school, schools, or our entire district based on a confirmed coronavirus case (or cases), contact tracing, identified close contacts, and the spread of coronavirus within a particular classroom/school/community.
The plan for elementary school students had been to transition to the Modified Traditional Model of five-days a week on September 21. However, school board members postponed this transition following a recommendation by the Back-to-School Advisory Committee which stated a need for additional time and data prior to a Modified Traditional Model for elementary students. This modified Traditional Model would include students remaining with their homeroom/classroom as a group/cohort. Lunch, art, music, and other related activities would occur safely inside each elementary classroom or outside.
The Back-to-School Advisory Committee will meet again on Monday, October 5, to discuss a new recommendation for the school board to consider during its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, October 6.
Because it is not possible to create small cohorts of middle and high school students, students in grades 6-12 will remain in the hybrid model until such time at it is safe for all students to return to classrooms five days each week.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
Please see below for a list of Frequently Asked Questions for our Back To School Safely Plans.
Q – In the Hybrid model are students required to have a laptop computer available or would there be no computer work for them just handouts from the teachers?
A - All students grades 3-12 will be given a laptop. We have ordered the devices, and are waiting for them to arrive. In situations where devices are not available (devices may be delayed/early childhood grades), paper pencil assignments will be provided.
Q - How will the district serve students who do not have reliable internet service?
A - Students will download their laptops with teacher-created materials on the days they are in school. When students get home, some will not have internet. However, the materials for their remote learning will already be downloaded. In addition, the district is working to acquire “hot spots” for areas without reliable internet service.
Q - Are masks mandatory the entire time students are in the building?
A - Aiken County Public Schools follows the guidelines provided by the S.C. Department of Education. Students and staff are expected to wear a face covering at all times and in all areas of school buildings. According to the SCDOE, A face covering is "a piece of fabric, cloth, or other material that covers the wearer’s nose, mouth, and chin simultaneously and is secured to the wearer’s face by elastic, ties, or other means. Acceptable face coverings may be homemade, and they may be reusable or disposable."
We recognize some students and staff members may not be able to wear a face covering due to medical conditions. Medical documentation of a child’s inability to wear a face covering should be submitted to the school nurse. The nurse will protect the child’s health information and simply provide teachers/administrators with information on which students cannot wear face coverings. (Staff members will follow a similar process, but will share their medical documentation with Human Resources, who will privately share that with their school principal/department lead).
The CDC does NOT recommend use of face shields as a substitute for cloth face coverings because of a lack of evidence of their effectiveness for source control.
Q - Can students and employees wear face shields if masks are not appropriate for that individual?
A - In these instances, parents, guardians, caregivers, teachers, and school administrators should consider adaptations and alternatives whenever possible.
Q -Will students be allowed to take masks off in the classroom?
A - Students will need to wear face coverings unless they are at their individual desks and have at least 6 feet of social distancing between them and others.
Q - While in hallways and going to lockers, how will social distancing be handled since lockers are right next to each other?
A - According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, lockers should be avoided. Students will not be assigned lockers for at least first semester of the 2020-21 school year.
Q - Will textbooks be shared between students?
A - Each student will be issued textbooks for each course/subject area as needed. Additionally, online access to textbooks will be provided when possible (some textbooks do not offer online access). In situations where a single book is used by more than one student at different times, (this may occur during small group or one-on-one reading lessons) a clear, plastic covering will be placed over the book pages so that children are not in direct contact with the book. Clear, plastic coverings would be sanitized between students.
Q - Will students be switching classes? If so, are desks being sanitized after each class?
A - In the hybrid model, students at the middle and high school level will follow their regular bell-schedule, however there will be signage in the hallways indicating the flow of traffic, and modified transition times to reduce hallway congestion. Teachers and other school staff will be provided cleaning materials to ensure the desks, door knobs and other high-touch areas in their classrooms are disinfected between students.
Elementary school students will remain in their assigned classrooms. Teachers and other school staff at the elementary level will work together to sanitize classrooms throughout the day.
When classrooms are not in use, all touchable surfaces will be disinfected. Custodial staff will clean and sanitize nightly and before a new cohort of students enters.
Q - Will students get breaks? If so, how will social distancing be handled in hallways?
A - Middle and High school administrators are working to modify transition times between classes to decrease hallway congestion and maintain social distancing. In the elementary setting, students will have structured breaks that are coordinated at the school level to ensure social distancing can occur with family cohorts remaining isolated from other family cohorts.
Q - Are the cleaning supplies safe for our students and staff?
A - Yes, the cleaning materials are all environmentally safe. EPA approved products are used to clean.
Q - How often will temperature checks be done?
A - Parents are encouraged to check their student’s temperature in the morning before school. We will not be implementing mandatory individual temperature checks for students once school begins. Our focus will be on cleaning and sanitizing, the use of face coverings, hand washing, avoiding close contact, and staying home when sick.
Q - When should I keep my child home?
A - If your child has symptoms of COVID-19, please do not send them to school and contact their healthcare provider. Symptoms include: fever, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, loss of taste or smell, new or worsening cough, sore throat, muscle or body aches, chills, fatigue, headache, congestion or runny nose, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting. For information about when to keep your child home for other symptoms/conditions, please refer to the DHEC Childcare and School Exclusion List.
Q - Will restrooms be cleaned once a day or more?
A - Restrooms will be disinfected hourly and fully cleaned daily.
Q - How will IEP services be provided to students with disabilities?
A - After parents have selected the instructional delivery model for their child, the student’s IEP team will collaborate to update the plan of supports that will meet his/her specific needs based on the model selected. Parents will be contacted by their child’s teacher to schedule an IEP meeting. This meeting will be utilized to review their individual needs, review progress and/or loss of skills, and determine if additional services and supports are required as a result of the school closure.
Q - What days will the Career Center be Open? How will that work with my child’s schedule?
A - The Aiken County Career and Technology Center will operate on a 4-day schedule like our high schools. Students who are enrolled in Aiken Innovate will be able to attend ACCTC courses, but will have to provide their own transportation. For our face-to-face students, they will be transported to the Aiken County Career and Technology Center on their assigned school days and may also attend on remote learning days, but will need to provide their own transportation. ACCTC staff is working to arrange classrooms for proper social distancing.
Q - Will buses be sanitized after each route?
A - Busses will be sanitized after each route. Bus drivers will be trained and equipped with sanitization supplies for daily disinfecting.
Q – How will the district maintain social distancing on buses?
A - According to DHEC and CDC guidelines buses will be able to contain up to 50% capacity. There will be one student per seat [except for two to a seat for siblings or members of the same household] and all students will be required to wear face coverings. [Buses will also be loaded first from the back seats, up to the front of the bus. Buses will unload from the front to the back.]
Q - Can we switch from AIKEN iNNOVATE to the hybrid model and vice versa?
A - Due to the planning and staffing needs of a virtual and in-person model, the commitment for AIKEN iNNOVATE is one semester.
Q - If a student is awaiting test results (for surgery, etc.), can they attend school?
A - If a student has been tested and the results are pending, they should not come to school. If there is a delay in receiving the results, they should communicate with their healthcare provider and the school nurse about when they may return.
Q - If a student is exposed to someone experiencing COVID symptoms “who is awaiting test results” can they attend school? For example, a parent is experiencing symptoms but not yet confirmed positive. Can their student attend school?
A - Yes, they can attend school while their family member is seeking a diagnosis. If the household member is confirmed to be positive, they would then quarantine according to DHEC guidelines. We ask that parents notify the school if their child is required to quarantine due to an exposure.
Q - Is a negative COVID test required before a student may return to school?
A - This will depend on the specific situation. For example, if a student tests positive, they do not need to be retested before returning to school. They must meet the current isolation criteria for COVID, which does not include a subsequent negative test. If a student is sent home because they have symptoms they may return with either 1) documentation of a negative COVID test, 2) a medical evaluation indicating that the symptoms were caused by another condition (in which case they must meet the exclusion criteria for the diagnosis), or 3) meet the current isolation criteria for COVID. If a student is exposed, they do not need to be tested unless they develop symptoms, but they must complete the required quarantine period.
Should your student/family have questions related to our Back-to-School Plans, we invite you to contact your home school or view our livestreamed and archived school board meetings. For specific information related to changes in instructional models or Covid-19 reporting data, please email email@example.com.
MESSAGE TO PARENTS & GUARDIANS REGARDING SCHOOL DISTRICT EMPLOYEES AS CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE
Parents and Guardians,
It is critically important that everyone remain healthy and safe so we can continue the vitally important work in our school district of teaching and learning. We want to remind you that all ACPSD employees who test positive for Covid-19 will be excluded from work and required to complete an isolation period in accordance with public health guidelines.
We also want you to be aware that as school district employees across the country have been designated as critical infrastructure by Executive Order of the President of the United States, and according to our most recent guidance from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Controls (DHEC), some ACPSD employees who have experienced a confirmed exposure to someone contagious with Covid-19 may continue to work in our buildings under a specific criteria.
School district employees who do continue to work during their quarantine period must be vigilant about self-monitoring, wear a mask at all times and maintain strict social distancing to avoid exposing others in case they are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. Employees who later become ill or test positive would be required to stay home and meet the current DHEC criteria in order to return to work.
Each of these instances will be examined individually on a case-by-case basis to ensure the continued health and safety of our faculty, staff, and students.
We appreciate your understanding during this time, and your continued support of Aiken County Public Schools.
"JUST NOT TRUE"
We are aware of misinformation about our Back To School plans and protocols that is being circulated on social media. Our growing list of rumors, misinformation and myths (with corrected factual information) is accessible to the left or by clicking on the following words "Just Not True."