The Orangeburg County School District held a trial run for in-person and virtual learning last Monday.
Some Holly Hill-Roberts Middle, Edisto Primary, Edisto Elementary and Orangeburg-Wilkinson High students participated in the effort.
"As Orangeburg County School District is phasing students back into in-person learning, our teachers are challenged with engaging with students online as well as students in the classroom," Assistant Superintendent for Communications and Business Community Partnerships Merry Glenne Piccolino said. "We felt it was important to demonstrate to our parents, teachers and staff that it is possible to effectively teach to students at home and in the classroom, with active participation, dialog and feedback between teachers and students,” she said.
The district's reopening plan includes students learning both in the classroom and online using Microsoft Teams.
"At home, students can see the live lesson on their devices and interact in the meeting," Glenne Piccolino said. "In the classroom, each student has their own device as well at their own socially-distanced desks, also connected to the Teams meeting, enabling everyone to interact with each other."
"Teachers can choose to sit at their desks to present the lesson in front of their webcam, or they can position their device so that they can be seen on the webcam standing at the front of the class," Glenne Piccolino said.
Glenne Piccolino said both students and teachers seemed to be comfortable in the learning environment.
"As in a typical classroom, teachers were proactive in engaging all students regardless of where they were seated: in the classroom, or in the comfort of their own homes," she said. Students were responsive and completed assignments.
Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School ninth-grade English teacher Chris Robinson said the trial run was beneficial to him.
"This demonstration gave us the opportunity to interact with students online and in person, and even though it was new to me, I think that we can work through the challenges that come with combining the two styles of learning," he said. "I believe that the task of doing virtual and in-person learning simultaneously is doable, and I look forward to tailoring my teaching style and lessons to accommodate this new normal."
O-W freshman Alnasia White says she is trying to adjust to the current situation.
“I’ve gotten really comfortable with Teams, and I use it to communicate with my teachers regularly," White said. "Mr. Robinson’s class has been going really well online, but I definitely miss my friends.”
Glenne Piccolino said the school district has been able to follow all the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
"Both students and teachers appeared comfortable sitting at a safe distance, wearing face coverings or using a face shield," she said.
OCSD has announced it is transitioning to a hybrid model of in-person instruction.
Occupational and physical therapy students returned to school the week of Sept. 28-Oct. 2, while students with special needs and early learners will follow.
School officials say they’re considering the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control's assessment of county coronavirus data in determining when students should return to school.
The district is also monitoring COVID hospitalizations, infections and inpatient space capacity.