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Students will need to stick with either in-person or remote learning

When the fourth quarter of the school year begins March 15, students in the Beaufort County Schools system will no longer be able to bounce between in-person and remote learning.

The BCS Board of Education on Monday unanimously approved policies meant to “minimize flip-flopping” and make the attendance-tracking process more feasible for teachers.

The general structure of the county’s remote learning plan will remain the same — Wednesdays will still be remote learning days for all grade levels, K-5 students will have the option of taking in-person classes under Plan A (minimal social distancing), and students in grades 6-12 will have the option of joining cohorts that alternate between in-person and remote learning days.

The changes approved Monday tighten the school system’s attendance and accountability policies. Students in all grade levels who are enrolled in in-person classes in the fourth quarter will remain in those in-person courses for the remainder of the quarter, with no option to switch to remote learning. That means students in grades 6-12 will be required to show up for the two in-person learning days their cohort has each week, if they choose to take in-person classes. Similarly, students who elect to stick with remote learning courses will do so for the rest of the quarter, with no option to return to in-person classes.

Students will be marked absent if they don’t attend class in their required format. If a student is enrolled in in-person learning, they must physically show up to class on in-person learning days; they’ll  be marked absent if they log in to the class virtually.

The same policy applies for remote-learning students— they must attend each of their remote courses at the assigned time, and they cannot attend any in-person classes.

Principals will be able to approve remote learning plans for in-person students who test positive for COVID-19 or are required to quarantine.

Before the fourth quarter of the school year begins, families will be able to make a final decision between in-person and remote learning.

On the subject of monitoring attendance for remote learning students, Chairwoman Carolyn Walker shared some concerns she’d heard about students who log in to online classes but never turn on their camera or engage with their classmates.

Superintendent Matthew Cheeseman said students in online classes complete “bell ringer” assignments each day, and that’s what teachers reference when recording their attendance.

“I will support a teacher where they make a decision to mark a child absent because they have an inability to prove he or she is actually there,” Cheeseman said. “…If a teacher marks them absent, documents that they’re absent, is able to show evidence of how they tried to engage the child and the child still did not engage the teacher, then I would support the absence.”

REMOTE LEARNING AND SPORTS

The school board also discussed whether it should continue to allow students enrolled in remote learning to be eligible for athletics.

For now, those students will maintain their eligibility.

“I don’t want to do a disservice to those that have already participated in sports because we allowed that, to now say ‘But you can’t play baseball because you’re remote,’” Walker said. “I want us to be consistent — but, going forward, I think we need to look at a firm policy for the next school year.”

Board member Terry Draper echoed Walker’s thoughts about consistency.