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BCSD looks at online learning options for upoming year

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Berkeley County Schools officials

Dr. Kelly Wulf, chief academics and innovation officer, and Cane Bay High School assistant principal Dr. Taylor Bradley presented a possible plan for the school district when students return to school in August at the Berkeley County School Board meeting on June 23.

Wulf and Taylor explained that the virtual learning that took place from March to May this year when the state was forced to close schools was an emergency solution and did not represent everything that could be possible with online learning.

Wulf and Taylor presented a blended learning plan for the district which would include students participating in live classes online with their teachers streaming live on Google Meets.

This allows for a better student-teacher connection and more effective online learning.

“There is no replacement for a classroom teacher,” Wulf said. “We needed the blended distance model where we are emphasizing that direct contact with that classroom teacher.”

Bradley explained that blended distance learning is not the same as the eLearning that took place since March when schools were closed due to COVID-19.

“What happened in March is not what blended distance learning is going to be,” Bradley said. “The big difference in blended distance learning is that we will have a teacher face-to-face with those kids.”

Bradley said that the school is working on setting up plans and guidelines for the students, teachers and administrations of the schools so that academic integrity and education are emphasized.

Bradley explained too that the plan for blended distance learning was thought after weighing several options and considering state guidelines.

“This is the product of a great deal of conversation and a lot of back and forth,” Bradley said. “We want to give students the opportunity to engage with a classroom teacher but in a situation that they feel comfortable.”

Wulf said that the live aspect of blended distance learning is more helpful that the old model which focused more on self-guided learning and provides students with more help and direction.

“We are committed to ensure that students are getting direct lessons from a teacher,” Wulf said.

Taylor said that there may be times when students will need to be in schools for instruction or for other educational matters and blended distance learning is the best option for those times.

“We are also looking at designated school testing sessions because we do understand that sometimes students need to come to school to take tests such as AP testing where there is not an opportunity to take those tests in the home,” Taylor said.

Bradley also explained that blended learning is not just for COVID-19 and it could be used for other situations that may cause students to be out of school such as sickness or inclement weather.

Berkeley County School District Superintendent Eddie Ingram praised the work that the district has done and said that the community needs to remain patient with the district as they work through the pandemic and trying to make a decision.

“I wish we had the answer today, truthfully the situation may change we could make a decision tonight and two weeks from now something could happen and things would need to change,” Ingram said.

The district will open registration in July and parents will be given the option to allow their student to take part in traditional education and blended distance learning.

Traditional education students will receive face-to-face instruction and will take part in classroom-based learning activities.

Students in both of these options will follow a traditional school schedule.

Students in 7th-12th grade can opt for virtual learning. Wulf said that if parents choose virtual learning they will have an orientation as well as their student.

“If parents choose to go to an online option they will be going through some parent orientation training with student orientation because we want to make sure that parents really understand what the expectations are if you want to go to an online option,” Wulf said.