• Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan (June 2021)

  • FeedbackIntroduction  

    On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plans (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. Charleston County School District’s ESSER III allocation is $163,114,048 for the three-year period through September 2024.

    This plan describes how Charleston County School District will provide 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 template 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. 

    Maintaining Health and Safety  

    Overview of ESSER Requirements 

    The 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 CDC'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 

    Charleston County School District provided in-person instruction in all schools, five days a week, for all parents who chose that option during the 2020-21 school year for almost 80% of students, and will begin the 2021-22 school year with the same full-time in-person instruction for an estimated 95% of students. Charleston County School District is committed to the safe return of students and staff to school this fall, and we place health and safety as a top priority following recommendations of state and local health experts. We will remain flexible, and as health and medical conditions or state or federal mandates change, CCSD will adjust accordingly. 

    The plan is grounded in two basic principles: 

    1) Students’ academic, social, and emotional needs can best be met if students are in school. 

    2) Students’ and staff’s health and safety must be a top priority. 

    The District established an extensive list of practices and safety protocols for in-person instruction during the 2020-21 school year, and conversations are taking place this summer with internal and external stakeholders, as well as health experts to determine any modifications that need to take place for the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. Those practices/protocols include:

    • Redesigning classroom spacing for student workspaces
    • Plexiglass dividers as needed
    • Enhanced campus and classroom sanitization
    • Limitations on visitors to schools and facilities
    • Posters throughout the buildings to encourage hand-washing, distancing and proper sanitization
    • Upgraded air filtration equipment
    • Water bottle filling stations
    • Hand sanitizer dispensers throughout schools
    • Consistent close contact with state health experts (DHEC) and local health experts (MUSC)
    • Face coverings; they were required in 2020-21, and the decision about the requirements for 2021-22 will be made after gathering feedback this summer from parents and staff, as well as consultation with health experts for their advice and guidance or as regulations change (Stricken 7-1-2021)

    Policies or Practices Regarding CDC Recommendations 

    Universal and correct wearing of masks  

    Description of Policies or Practice, if applicable:

    Face coverings were required in 2020-21 for all students and staff by School Board Policy, with exceptions during mealtimes, outdoor activities where distancing was possible, and planned mask breaks. Masks were required on school buses. Parents were allowed to opt-out from student face coverings in the final weeks of the school year.  During Summer 2021, conversations are taking place with parents, staff, and other stakeholders about the face coverings policy beginning in August 2021. Additionally, DHEC, CDC, and MUSC guidance will be important in making the final decision. That decision will be announced in advance of the opening of the 2021-22 school year. (Added 7-1-2021) CCSD will comply with State Proviso 1.108 which prohibits school districts and schools from requiring that students and/or employees wear a mask at any of its educational facilities for the 2021-22 school year.

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

    Description of Policies or Practices, if applicable:

    Classrooms will be designed to allow spacing of student workspaces that are 3 feet apart or greater to the extent possible. Plexiglass dividers, used extensively during the 2020-21 school year are available for spaces where that distancing is not possible, and principals have been asked to look at the unique needs of each of their schools to make a recommendation about the timing of classroom plexiglass divider removal for the 2021-22 school year.

    Handwashing and respiratory etiquette 

    Description of Policies or Practices, if applicable:

    Wall-mounted, free-standing, or bottles hand sanitizer dispensers have been installed or are available in locations throughout all CCSD schools. A bulk supply of hand sanitizer for distribution will be available in all schools for refilling classroom handheld containers. Schools will encourage personal hygiene practices including proper hand-washing among students.

    Cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, including improving ventilation 

    Description of Policies or Practices, if applicable:

    CCSD has upgraded air handling equipment aligned with industry standards to include: grooming HVAC equipment and controls to ensure increased fresh air supply, upgraded air filtration systems, and extended run times to increase fresh air supply. All school nurses’ clinics have HEPA/UV air scrubbers.

    CCSD will take extra steps to ensure that all school facilities are providing safe and healthy learning environments, with protocols and actions that include:

    • Disinfecting bathrooms and high-touch common surfaces (light switches, door knobs, push bars, and vending machines) twice each day.
    • All restroom supplies will be checked and restocked multiple times each day.
    • Fogging the entire building with disinfectant equipment at least one time a week (or 20% of the building each week night).
    • Disinfecting playground equipment high touch surfaces and room horizontal surfaces once per day.
    • Custodians manning both the school-day and evening shifts have been trained and will follow specific, printed protocols for cleaning and sanitizing.
    • All classrooms have been provided spray bottles of approved cleaner/sanitizer and paper towels so that they may do additional sanitizing of surfaces if they wish to do so. 

    Contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine  

    Description of Policies or Practices, if applicable:

    CCSD Nursing Services is responsible for contact tracing associated with positive COVID-19 cases. Protocols are in place for prompt notification of individuals and parents after determination of close contacts. Symptomatic persons may be tested at the school and are isolated in a dedicated space until they can leave school. The follow-up isolation and quarantine periods are enforced consistently in alignment with CDC and DHEC recommendations. Persons who are fully vaccinated are not required to quarantine if they remain asymptomatic. In addition to the prompt notification of close contacts, parents of other students in the room are also notified that a positive case was identified in their child’s classroom (without information that would identify the positive person). The entire classroom will be quarantined if there are three or more positive cases within a 14-day period.

    CCSD maintains a positive COVID case dashboard, updated each afternoon during the school year, showing the running daily cases weekly total, two-week total, and a year-to-date total.

    Diagnostic and screening testing  

    Description of Policies or Practices, if applicable:

    CCSD offers two types of COVID-19 testing at school for symptomatic students and staff: Binax Now Rapid Antigen Testing (nasal swab with results in 15 minutes) and saliva testing (PCR test with results 24-48 hours). Both tests are offered with no out-of-pocket expense.

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

    Description of Policies or Practices, if applicable:

    Over 11 days in Spring 2021, CCSD offered two rounds of Phizer vaccines to all employees in collaboration with MUSC. Additionally, several schools worked with Fetter Health Services and other providers for COVID-19 vaccinations. Each of the District’s high schools offered COVID-19 vaccinations on-site for eligible students (and staff) with parental permission. In May and June, vaccination clinics for students 12 and up were offered in middle schools across the district. 

    CCSD will work with medical partners during the 2021-22 school year to offer vaccinations to students and staff as eligibility changes and conditions require.

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

    Description of Policies or Practices, if applicable:

    Teachers and service providers will continue to provide specially designed instruction and/or related services outlined in a student’s current IEP or 504 Accommodations Plan. If adjustments need to be made given the instructional model in place for the student, IEP teams and 504 committees will convene to consider any amendments to special education goals, services, and accommodations to best meet the needs of the student considering any health and safety procedures and the instructional setting.

    Coordination with state and local health officials  

    Description of Policies or Practices, if applicable:

    CCSD has a close working relationship with our local health care providers, especially with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC,) whose staff members have advised the District staff on all facets of the return to in-person instruction. Additionally, CCSD works in tandem with SC DHEC staff to ensure that our health protocols are consistent with directives and best practices. CCSD will be guided by the latest health and safety conditions in all facets of the Safe Return. Working closely with state health agencies and local health experts, CCSD will exhaust our efforts to provide safe and healthy learning environments for students and staff. Flexibility and adaptability are keys to the success, and we will make changes in the operating modes and protocols as needed in consultation with health experts. 

    Continuity of Services  

    Overview of ESSER Requirements  

    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.  

    District response on continuity of services 

    Academics

    A well-established digital learning environment systemically exists within CCSD, consisting of the following:

    • a common Learning Management System (LMS) used with fidelity
    • adequate technical and instructional support for teachers and students
    • 1:1 hardware distribution
    • adequate infrastructure to support current and near-future device and software and systems requirements.

    CCSD is a 1:1 device district in elementary, middle, and high grades. The district has a streamlined access delivery point for student learning in order to easily transition between learning models--in-class, at home, virtual, and/or blended. Offering a safe, secure, online learning environment through its dedicated learning management system (LMS), Canvas, the district is able to better meet the identified needs of stakeholders and maintain learning continuity, in the event of any weather disruption or other unforeseen circumstance that would warrant temporary or long term school closure. 

    The district has an IT department dedicated to infrastructure needs and technical/hardware support as well as an Innovation and Digital Learning department dedicated to digital learning support. Moreover, the district has assembled a cross sectional team (IT, Operations, Assessment and Evaluation, Student Information, Instruction and Digital Learning, and Pupil Accounting) to improve digital ecosystem processes for smoother implementation as well as high priority troubleshooting related to access of digital learning resources for teachers and students. 

    The district’s move to a common LMS has been positive in several ways, including a consistent access point to learning for students and families, sharing resources across the district and supporting teachers with professional development and instructional resources. Additionally, the more frequent use of virtual conferencing tools (like Zoom, Google Meet, WebEx) has made collaboration across a large district more conducive and consistent, allowing for better communication and more aligned expectations and outcomes in teaching and learning. 

    Over the last year, the district assembled a centralized taskforce to monitor student engagement in learning and implemented surveys to collect information, input, and feedback that have been sent out through our district call-out and student information management system. The district has a Safe Restart landing page that provides updates and sends out important information through schools as well as district call out and email systems.

    Professional Development

    CCSD has made a concerted effort to enhance cultural competency through professional development and training for all staff. Training in trauma-informed best practices is an area of focus for our schools to ensure awareness and skills for managing stress-induced behaviors. Listening circles are facilitated throughout the district in order to provide all staff with forums for sharing and healing, as well as resources for coping with stress and trauma.

    Social, Emotional, Mental Health

    Access to mental health services for students has increased in CCSD with additional personnel allocations, community partnerships and grant awards. Every student is taught healthy social emotional habits and strategies through one or more of the following: Second Step, Restorative Circles, or Advisory lessons focused. These services continue whether in-person or virtual instruction is taking place. The district and each school proactively identify and provide tiered supports for students struggling socially, emotionally, or academically through its implementation of a Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS).  

    Tutoring

    CCSD is planning additional access for identified students to high dosage tutoring opportunities in both face-to-face and virtual modalities. Additional resources have been allocated to support these initiatives occurring both inside and outside of the regular school day.  The district is currently supporting the implementation of its largest summer enrichment program (for academic and engagement support) with over 3000 identified and confirmed students attending in order to assist in alleviating learning lag resulting from the impact of the pandemic.  

    Student and Family Resources

    Some of the student and family resources that have been developed to support virtual learning as well as in-person learning using technology enhanced instruction can be found below:

    Canvas Student and Parent Support

    Getting Started as a Student

    Canvas Overview for Students [video]

    Family (Parent and Student) Remote Learning Support  bit.ly/canvas4families

    The consistent use of the LMS provides a platform for educators in our district to collaborate in professional learning communities (PLCs), deliver and participate in professional development and give and receive support for teaching and learning. The Canvas platform provides access and delivery to a wide range of common resources--including digital instructional content, a global library of lessons, modules, courses, activities--all accessible with one login. Use of adaptive digital content resources is now streamlined and specific to content areas and grade levels to allow for more valid progress monitoring across the system. Teachers are able to log in to adaptive digital content platforms and monitor both usage and progress. Additionally, Learning Services provides digital/eLearning resources for teachers such as through the main Seek Assistance site, Digital/eLearning Teacher PD resources webpage, and district teacher/employee device & account troubleshooting help. 

    The district is continuing to improve services to students, families, teachers, and its building leaders. As such, CCSD is in the process of phasing in a data analytics platform for data management and analysis, to streamline consistent progress monitoring of various data sources. Moreover, the district utilizes a connective in-house data warehouse and reporting system, Data Central, managed through the Assessment and Evaluation Office to provide common resources, access to student engagement and academic data, as well as other data sources. CCSD is working on system process improvements, including providing even more consistent and accessible district-wide communications, increased and uninterrupted Internet access (mifis, additional towers, improved services through district and service provider partnerships, etc…), strengthening outreach to the communities, and delivering ongoing and job-embedded professional development for teachers and leaders in best practices in instruction for online and blended learning environments as well as ways to maximize use of instructional, assessment, and reporting tools for continuous improvement in teaching and learning. The district is also working with the SCDE on phasing in the learning object repository (Safari Montage), so that teachers have access to a repository of organized, differentiated, and vetted standards-based lessons, resources, and tools. 

    Multilingual Learners

    CCSD continues to enhance awareness and access for its multilingual learners and their families to academic and social emotional learning services and resources. The district has implemented its CCSD Language Access Portal to assist schools and departments in obtaining interpretation (oral or American Sign Language) and/or translation (written) services as well as to track translation and/or interpretation services that the school is able to process without requiring additional assistance. Its implementation will assist the district in determining ways to better serve the needs of students and their families. Moreover, bilingual support staff have been allocated to schools and to the district’s parent engagement team in order to assist in reducing culture and language barriers and improving outreach efforts for engaging families and the community in the school. 

    IEP and 504 Services

    In anticipation of possible modified school operations during a school year, the Department of Exceptional Children (DEC), in collaboration with the Office of Special Education Services within the South Carolina Department of Education, developed guidance intended to ensure that CCSD schools are prepared to serve students with disabilities during the school year regardless of instructional model (in-person, alternating schedule, emergency remote instruction, temporary remote instruction, or virtual academy).  CCSD supports students with disabilities (student has an IEP or 504 Plan) with appropriate instructional delivery methods to meet the student’s needs. Determinations of accommodations and/or modifications (as applicable) are based on a student’s annual IEP or 504 meeting, including how accommodations will be addressed. Such meetings also facilitate the development of Contingency Learning Plans(CLPs) to ensure continuity of services for students when transitions in learning modes may be necessary. 

    Nutrition services

    CCSD school cafeteria staff will follow DHEC standards and COVID19 protocol. As a standard operating procedure, gloves will be worn with no bare hand contact with food. Hand washing protocol, as always, will be strictly enforced. Masks will be worn when in close contact during food preparation and during meal service. All surfaces will be cleaned and sanitized with appropriate chemicals according to instructions on a regular and on-going schedule. Meals will be provided as usual, but during the 2020-21 school year many students ate in their classrooms using the “grab and go” model to avoid large gatherings in the school cafeteria. Conditions will be monitored prior to the start of the school year on August 18, 2021, to determine whether students can safely return to eating in the cafeteria. 

    Periodic Review  

    Overview of ESSER Requirements  

    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.  

    District response on ensuring periodic updates to its plan 

    CCSD will conduct reviews of the Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan at least every six months through September 2023, ensuring the opportunity for public input into decision making about plan revisions.

    Public Input  

    Overview of ESSER Requirements  

    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.  

    District response on public input in development of its plan 

    The District’s current 2020-21 plan to reopen in-person was developed with public input in Summer 2020 and modified several times throughout the year after conditions changed or public reaction necessitated a change. That plan was available to the public on the CCSD website. Likewise, the District is currently engaging stakeholders in developing the plan for the 2021-22 school year. The “Safe Return” plan is publicly available on the CCSD website and will be reviewed every six months through September 2023.
    The CCSD plan is posted online at www.ccsdschools.com. The plan is available in multiple languages through the translation feature on the District website. Parents and employees were made aware of the plan by email and phone call through the District messaging system, and a Google form was designed to allow for parent and employee comments.

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