2021-22 Safe Return To In-Person Instruction Plan

Darlington County School District's
2021-22 Safe Return to In-Person Instruction
and Continuity of Service Plan
June 24, 2021

 

INTRODUCTION

On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act was signed into law. In it, the U.S.  Department of Education is providing an additional $121.9 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER III Fund). This legislation will award grants to state educational agencies (SEAs) for providing local educational agencies (LEAs) with emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the nation.


South Carolina will receive $2,112,051,487 in ESSER III funds from the Act, with 90 percent being awarded to school districts with amounts determined in proportion to the amount of Title I, Part A funds they received in summer 2020 from funds under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The remaining funds will be used for state-level activities to address issues caused by COVID-19. 

Every school district must provide a plan outlining the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services for all schools, including those that have already returned to in person instruction. This report for the Darlington County School District (DCSD), which is still in draft form, complies with all reporting requirements of the ARP Act (Public Law 117-2), the ESSER III grant terms, conditions, and assurances (CFDA Number 84.425U), and the interim final rule established by the United States Department of Education, 86 FR 21195. 

The ARP Act requires that school districts make their Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan available to the public online and that the plans be in an understandable and uniform format; to the extent practicable, are written in a language that parents can understand or, if not practicable, orally translated; and upon request by a parent who is an individual with a disability, provided in an alternative format accessible to that parent. Before making its plan publicly available, school districts must seek public comment on the plan and develop the plan after taking into account public comment.
DCSD sought input and suggestions from parents, students, employees, and community members on the Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan before submitting it to the SC Department of Education on June 24, 2021. 

MAINTAINING HEALTH AND SAFETY

Overview

A district’s plan must include how it will maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other school and LEA staff, and the extent to which it has adopted policies or practices and a description of any such policies or practices, on each of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention's safety recommendations including: universal and correct wearing of masks; modifying facilities to allow for physical distancing (e.g., use of cohorts/podding); hand washing and respiratory
 etiquette; cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation; contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the state, local, territorial, or Tribal health departments; diagnostic and screening testing; efforts to provide vaccinations to educators, other staff, and students, if eligible; appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to health and safety policies or practices; and coordination with state and local health officials.

 A district’s plan

must include how it will maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other school and LEA staff, and the extent to which it has adopted policies or practices and a description of any such policies or practices, on each of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention's safety recommendations including: universal and correct wearing of masks; modifying facilities to allow for physical distancing (e.g., use of cohorts/podding); hand washing and respiratory
 etiquette; cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation; contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, in collaboration with the state, local, territorial, or Tribal health departments; diagnostic and screening testing; efforts to provide vaccinations to educators, other staff, and students, if eligible; appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to health and safety policies or practices; and coordination with state and local health officials.

Description of maintaining health and safety

This guide presents a draft of DCSD’s Return-to-School Plan for the 2021-2022 school year. Under this plan, the DCSD will begin the 2021-2022 school year with a five-day-a-week, face-to-face instructional model. This plan incorporates protocols that have been developed or expanded to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is based on guidance from the CDC and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC). The top priority in all decisions made by DCSD is the health, safety, and well-being of our students, employees, and school communities. This document is subject to change as conditions evolve in our community and from recommendations by the CDC and SCDHEC. If and when the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic change, the guidance we receive from State and local agencies may also change and cause adjustments to our plans.

Policies or Practices Regarding CDC Recommendations 

Universal and correct wearing of masks

Masks will be optional - but strongly recommended - in the Darlington County School District. Face masks or cloth face coverings will be worn by all persons in healthcare settings like health rooms and isolation rooms. 

Modifying facilities to allow for physical distancing (e.g., use of cohorts/podding) 

Social distancing, also called "physical distancing," means keeping a safe space between people who are not of the same household. Social distancing aims to limit physical contact to reduce viral spread among people in community settings, such as schools.

When social distancing is practiced in combination with other everyday preventive actions such as handwashing and mask-wearing, it is an effective means to slow the spread of disease.

DCSD will practice social distancing/physical distancing to the greatest extent possible, as recommended by SCDHEC. Schools and facilities will take steps to ensure all spaces support health and safety practices. These may include – but are not limited to – 

• Signage and floor markings to remind students of social-distancing practices.  

• Possible changes to foot traffic flow through buildings and furniture placement in the classrooms.  

• Limiting nonessential visitors and activities in the school buildings. 

• Providing sanitizing stations throughout the building. 

• Providing opportunities for and promoting of frequent handwashing and the use of hand sanitizer. 

• Utilizing guidelines to minimize the number of students sent to the office and the health room/nurse's office. 

• Encouraging each school to monitor student arrival and dismissal to discourage students from congregating in groups. 

• Encouraging schools to incorporate virtual events such as parent/family meetings, assemblies, etc., where possible. 

• Encouraging the use of technology conferencing for District and school staff meetings. 

• Monitoring the spread of viruses or other contagious diseases, such as but not limited to influenza and COVID-19. 

Handwashing and respiratory etiquette

The DCSD will support healthy handwashing and respiratory etiquette by: 

• Teaching and reinforcing handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and continuing to monitor to ensure adherence among students, teachers, and staff. If handwashing is not possible, the district will provide access to hand sanitizer.

• Encouraging students and staff to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue when not wearing a mask and to also immediately wash their hands after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing.

• Supporting healthy hygiene behaviors by providing adequate supplies, including soap, a way to dry hands, tissues, face masks (as feasible), and no-touch/foot-pedal trash cans. If soap and water are not readily available, schools can provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol (for staff and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer).

Encouraging students and staff to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue when not wearing a mask and to also immediately wash their hands after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing. 


Supporting healthy hygiene behaviors by providing adequate supplies, including soap, a way to dry hands, tissues, face masks (as feasible), and no-touch/foot-pedal trash cans. If soap and water are not readily available, schools can provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol (for staff and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer).


• Providing at least one water bottle filling station at every school.

Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation 

The DCSD is updating HVAC and filters throughout the district as part of an ongoing effort to increase outdoor air delivery to schools and improve air quality.

The custodial staff of DCSD will continue to regularly clean high-touch surfaces and objects (for example: door handles, sink handles, toilets) within the school and on school buses at least daily. The custodial staff will also conduct deep cleaning as needed.

Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine

DCSD will follow SCDHEC and CDC recommendations for contact tracing to determine isolation and quarantine criteria for students and staff. To provide transparent reporting for our stakeholders, the District maintained a COVID-19 case dashboard throughout the 2020-21 school year and will continue to do so, as necessary, for the 2021-22 school year.

The District will continue to educate students and their parents about the symptoms of COVID-19 and the importance of staying home if they have any of the symptoms or if anyone in the household tests positive for the disease. 

Students who display COVID-19 symptoms or who have received a SCDHEC confirmed positive COVID-19 test result would be asked to quarantine for the SCDHEC’s recommended period of time. 

Diagnostic and screening testing

The DCSD believes testing for COVID-19 is the responsibility of parents. The district will not be testing students at schools or district facilities unless directed to do so. If needed, school and district health staff will direct parents to available testing facilities to test their children.

Efforts to provide vaccinations to educators, other staff, and students, if eligible

During the 2020-2021 school year, the DCSD worked collaboratively with the staff of Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center to provide vaccines for employees. Moving forward, the district will include vaccine testing sites on the district’s COVID-19 resource page and encourage parents and staff to use that information to vaccinate their families as they see fit.

Appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to health and safety policies and practices.

When circumstances require specific policies or practices designed to protect the health and safety of students, 504 and IEP teams will determine if modifications and/or reasonable accommodations are needed for individual students with disability-related issues.  

Coordination with state and local health officials

The DCSD has worked closely with local and state health officials throughout the pandemic. The district has developed strong working relationships with SCDHEC staff, local health care providers, and state and government officials and will continue to work collaboratively with those entities during the 2021-2022 school year for the safety and well-being of our staff and students. The DCSD will also continue to work with community partners to share information about vaccination sites.


CONTINUITY OF SERVICES

Districts must describe how the LEA will ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to services to address students' academic needs and students' and staff social, emotional, mental health and other needs, which may include student health and food services. 

In DCSD, our students always come first. DCSD has taken and will continue to plan and act to ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to services to address students’ academic needs and students’ and staff social, emotional, mental health needs, student health needs, and student nutritional needs.
 

Academic Needs

During the 2021 summer, DCSD operated a comprehensive Summer Academic Enrichment Program  (SAEP) for grades K-12. The SAEP is open to all DCSD students. The program focused on academic reinforcement, academic remediation, and, for the high school students, content recovery. Transportation was provided, and students received breakfast and lunch at the program sites. The district also offered a Summer Reading Camp for third graders and the DCSD ArtSummer program for students in grades 5-10 who wished to focus on the arts.

Summer professional development opportunities were planned for all staff focused on effective instructional practices. 

DCSD will offer instruction for the 2021-2022 school year through both traditional in-person schools and the district’s online virtual school, the Darlington County Virtual Academy (DCVA). The DCVA offers a virtual school program that utilizes the best online AND offline resources from top educational publishers and curriculum specialists to deliver a high-quality 5K–12 comprehensive online education aligned with South Carolina College & Career Ready Standards. Students must meet the admission requirements to apply for a spot in the DCVA. Those that are accepted into the program must commit to remaining in the program for the entire school year.

eLearning will be incorporated into the learning plan for students or teachers who may be diagnosed with COVID-19 and/or are quarantined during the school year. In addition, classrooms are equipped to support continuous learning through the use of technology (laptops, cameras, microphones) and the student’s learning management system (Schoology, SeeSaw). As always, students with exceptional learning needs or who may have an Individual Education Plan or 504 will be accommodated in either learning program selected.
 
 

Social, Emotional, and Mental Health Needs

DCSD is committed to providing training and resources to address the social, emotional, and mental health of DCSD staff and students. The district provided professional development for teachers, counselors, and other school staff on identified Social-emotional learning (SEL). Every school has created SEL committees. For the 2021-2022 school year, the district plans to strengthen and expand these programs. In addition, the district will kick off a districtwide/community-wide initiative in the fall that will focus on the SEL of DCSD schools and our greater community through outreach, partnerships, and collaborative efforts of kindness.

All schools within DCSD have trained counselors on staff. The district also has a team of social workers and family/school facilitators to offer additional services and support to students and families. 

Finally, many DCSD schools offer telehealth mental health services through a partnership with the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. 
 

Student Health Needs

Every school within DCSD has an assigned nurse on their campus or shared campus. In addition, all of the elementary schools will offer school-based telehealth services through partnerships with the Medical University of South Carolina and local providers. 
 

Food Service Needs

During DCSD’s Summer Academic Enhancement Program, ArtSummer Program, and Summer Reading Program, all participants were served a nutritious breakfast and lunch. In addition, the district provided multiple nutrition sites throughout the county to provide healthy breakfast and lunch options for parents to pick up during the summer for children ages 0-18.

Under the Federal government’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), all schools in DCSD are able to provide free breakfasts and lunches to all our students.


PERIODIC REVIEW

Districts are required to review and, as appropriate, revise their Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan at least every six months through September 30, 2023, including seeking public input and taking such input into account in determining whether to revise the plan and, if revisions are determined necessary, on the revisions it makes to its plan. If a district developed a plan prior to enactment of the ARP Act that was made publicly available and was developed with public comment, but does not address each of the required aspects of safety established in the ARP Act, the district must, as part of the required periodic review, revise its plan consistent with the ARP Act requirements no later than six months after it last reviewed its plan.

During the period of the ESSER awards, DCSD will periodically review and revise its plan as needed. The plan will be reviewed at least every six months, during which time the school district will seek and consider public input on the revised plans.


PUBLIC INPUT

The ARP Act requires that school districts make their Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan available to the public online and that the plans be in an understandable and uniform format; to the extent practicable, are written in a language that parents can understand or, if not practicable, orally translated; and upon request by a parent who is an individual with a disability, provided in an alternative format accessible to that parent. Before making its plan publicly available, school districts must seek public comment on the plan and develop the plan after taking into account public comment.

DCSD will take the following steps to solicit feedback on the district’s Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan (“Plan”):

• The plan will be posted on the school district’s website at www.dcsdschools.org

• Using broadcast phone calls and emails, DCSD will encourage DCSD parents, students, and employees to read the plan and complete the survey.

• The plan will be shared with the Board of Education at the June 14, 2021, Board meeting and again at the June 23, 2021, board work session.

• The plan and the survey will be posted on the school district’s social media. 

• The plan is available in multiple languages through the use of our web provider powered by Google Translate.

• Upon request, a parent who is an individual with a disability as defined by the ADA may be provided with the plan in an alternative format accessible by contacting: 

Sarah Tew
Director of Exceptional Education
843-398-2253 

or Giovanna Kelley
Coordinator of Elementary Exceptional Education
843-398-2262