Upstate school district works to tackle distant learning challenges amid COVID-19

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OCONEE COUNTY, SC (WSPA)– School kids learning from home because of social distancing, are facing some challenges in Oconee County.

District leaders said the schools are trying to resolve things like WiFi problems in that area.

“If you know anything about Oconee County, we are almost 700 square miles and we have Mountainous areas, so internet is hard,” said Jennifer Dodd, Public Information Officer, for the School District of Oconee County.

“Our biggest challenge like so many school districts I’m sure, is internet access at home,” Dodd said.

Nearly 99% of students have district-issued devices at home, but one 7th grade teacher said there are some challenges with at-home learning.

“We’re struggling with some to get contact to even have parents help them do the work…whether it’s an internet issue or they’re just not doing it,” said Katelyn Dodd, 7th Grade teacher at Seneca Middle School.

As a resolution, the district has extended WiFi access points in all of their school parking lots.

“I’d say 20 feet from the school in the parking lot, is possibly for students to connect their devices,” said Jennifer Dodd.

They also have 20 additional WiFi access points at public places all over the County.

School leaders said they’re also working on student to teacher interaction during distant learning. Teachers are using apps like Google Meet to stay connected with students.

“At least three times a week, i host Google meets that my kids can come in and be able to see their faces,” said Katelyn Dodd.

Despite that, some students and staff said they are ready for things to be back to normal.

“Before they were talking about how much they didn’t like school and they wanted to be home-schooled. But now we’re saying I can’t wait to go back to school. It’s really encouraging actually,” Katelyn Dodd said.

Leaders said they’re in the process of creating a more defined interactive map that will include all of the WiFi access points, and meal pick-up locations in the County.

School officials also said they are working with the state to bring six new buses that will create WiFi access points in the most problematic neighborhoods.

In the meantime, they said parents can contact their technology and instructional hotline with any issues from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day during the week.

To reach the hotline, call 864-718-5555. You can also access the school access maps, here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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