Area schools recently returned to traditional instruction, as classes opened their doors for students at Bishop England High School on Aug. 24 and at Berkeley County schools on Sept. 8.
After the COVID-19 pandemic cut the remainder of second semester 2020 spring classes short in March, principals of area schools signaled that students now were excited to return to campus.
Philip Simmons High School principal Chris Buchholz said that he has never sensed more excitement from students during his entire 18-year public education career.
“I don’t think I have seen kids more excited to be back, even those participating virtually seem excited to be engaged again,” he said.
“Students are excited to be back in school. Several students and parents have communicated their appreciation of in-person classes. The students are looking to create new traditions and modify other traditions in order to have a great school year,” said Patrick
Finneran, principal at Bishop England High School.
For students, changes to encourage social distancing are evident from the opening bell.
Daniel Island School and Bishop England have established similar drop-off procedures for students in order to mitigate congestion in school hallways.
At Daniel Island School, students who have a last name beginning from A-L are dropped off at school between 7:25 a.m. and 7:45 a.m., while students listed from M-Z are dropped off between 7:45 a.m. and 8:00 a.m.
The format has worked well, according to principal Nancy Leigh.
Teaching social distancing at school is one challenge of the new environment, but principals said that students are responding well.
“We have spacing in our schedules to provide time for cleaning, so I feel like the back to school plan has worked out very well,” Leigh said. “We’re just practicing how we walk down the hall, how we sit, and how we talk to our friends. We’re kind of learning how to go to school all over again.”
The Daniel Island School has implemented a rotating recess schedule to allow for the cleaning of playgrounds, Leigh said. The shift allows for extended time to clean surfaces, while students are allowed the opportunity to choose from multiple recess locations throughout the week.
“The younger kids are enjoying that every day,” she said.
Bishop England has also adopted an identical alphabet format, with BE students attending classes either in-person or virtually on a rotating basis.
To implement the system, the institution staggered it’s start by one week to allow teachers to receive proper training on the new program before heading into the classroom.
“Our students rotate participation either in class or at home by alphabet, so about 50% are on campus each day,” Finneran said.
Only 11 BE students are participating 100% at home on a full-time basis.
“The teachers have embraced this model and continue to improve the educational experience for all students. The school has made a significant financial commitment to make the hybrid model possible,” Finneran said.
Bishop England has continually embraced virtual education since coronavirus concerns led to class cancellations statewide in March.
“Our teachers embraced the virtual education model and continued to provide new content until the end of the year,” Finneran said.
Daniel Island School’s model isn’t quite the same as Bishop England’s, but the institution also is utilizing blended learning. With 1,123 total students enrolled, 81% of students are receiving traditional instruction, with 909 students receiving in-person instruction, while 210 are participating in remote learning.
Principal Leigh said that she and her staff are actively involved in helping students and parents learn the new technology that comes with online learning.
“Once we get that underway, I think it will get better. It’s just a matter of getting more familiar with the techniques of blended learning,” she said.
Buchholz credited his teachers and staff for transitioning students through blended learning. “Teachers have truly tackled the component. Nothing is perfect, but this has been a huge task and I’m proud of our whole staff for meeting the challenge,” he said.