Hundreds of virtual students transition to in-school learning amid pandemic

Local News

Upstate, SC (WSPA)–While COVID-19 has been problematic across the Upstate, hundreds of virtual students have elected to move back to face-to-face instruction in Anderson and Pickens Counties.

The School District of Pickens County and Anderson School District Five, said they are prepared for the return of more students when the second semester begins.

“I think with precautions, I think they should go back to school because it just gives the kids more of stable, everyday thing. They miss out on a lot with their friends. Parents have a hard time with working, you know their jobs and trying to take care of them at home. I just think it’s better for them to be in school and get a lot more attention,” said Sandy Crowe, grandparent of a Pickens County student.

“So we have about half of our virtual students, so that’ll be about 1,500 students coming back to in-person instruction, that’s the choice that their parents have made,” said John Eby, Coordinator of Communications at the School District of Pickens County.

School District of Pickens County said teachers have been hard at work readjusting seating charts, and have plastic dividers being installed now ahead of the new semester.

“So we’ve got to get ready to readjust seating charts, etc. for second semester. So that’s a big shift coming up in the next week,” Eby said. “There’s logistic changes as we figure out which students are coming in, which students are going out. It’s almost like the start of a whole new school year,” he said.

Crowe just retired as a lunchroom manager within the district in December, and she said she’s glad more students are coming back in-person, starting January 20th. Crowe said she believes the district will be ready for more students.

“You can just see the difference in them. The kids love to be at school,” Crowe said. “They really work hard trying to be careful, precautious and things,” she said.

“I think it’s great because the virtual learning, my kid went from A’s and B’s–to F’s, majorly,” said Brittany Patterson, an Upstate parent. “The one that’s in school, she’s got straight A’s so I mean, that’s the difference,” she said.

Patterson has a child in Pickens County Schools and in Anderson County schools. She said having this option to transfer, is greatly needed.

“Because they’re not learning anything by sitting there telling them what to do. They’re not there tell them how to do it, you know, that’s a big difference,” Patterson said.

In Anderson School District Five, around 1,500 virtual students will be back in classes when the semester begins in February. Additionally, 70 virtual teachers will transition, over as well. District leaders said many parents and students felt in-person learning is a preferred method.

“They know that the face-to-face model is the preferred learning method. I think that’s what kids are obviously comfortable with, it’s what they’re used to,” said Kyle Newton, Assistant Superintendent, Anderson School District Five.

“Particularly for a lot of the elementary kids, that’s where we saw a lot of the movement for those younger age groups. Not as much movement for the secondary kids, even though we still saw a good number of them going,” Newton said. “A lot of those teachers will be transitioning back to their classrooms. Obviously, we’ll still be enforcing social distancing. Students will still be wearing masks. We’ll still have the same cleaning and sanitizing routines,” Newton added.

“Honestly, what we’ve seen over the last couple of months, is this– we have a fairly controlled environment in our schools. We have mask requirements, we have cleaning, where the kids go throughout the day is fairly regimented. That is not the case when we send them home. In some families it is, in many cases it’s not. The biggest spike in cases, we saw in Pickens County, was not when we opened school in August, it was when closed school in November,” Eby said. “We feel like based on what we’ve seen in our own community, one of the best ways to keep our students in our community safe, is to keep them in a controlled environment,” he added.

Crowe said with safety precautions in place, she feels at ease, as her grandson goes back to school face-to-face.

“He likes virtual, but he’s ready to go. He’ll be a senior next year, so he’s ready to get back into school,” Crowe said.

The School District of Pickens County said they hope to get back to normal very soon. The district said nurses, and therapists are in the process of receiving the COVID-19 vaccines. The district also tells 7-News, soon– they will be announcing vaccine plans for the rest of their employees.

High school students in Anderson School District Five, will start the second semester on February 2nd, and middle and elementary school students will start back on February 3rd.

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