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Pickens County to continue eLearning pilot program - UpstateToday.com

Pickens County to continue eLearning pilot program

By Greg Oliver

The Journal

EASLEY — The School District of Pickens County will again take part in a pilot program that allows school districts to use eLearning days for school makeup days.

District superintendent Danny Merck said the response to eLearning has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The eLearning program is one of our many flexible learning options provided for our students,” Merck said. “We understand that our customers are learning in different ways, so we are attempting to create a culture that engages more students in these flexible learning options. We are looking forward to eLearning for the second year in our school district.”

Last March, a report prepared for the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee contained overwhelmingly positive feedback for pilot school districts — including Pickens — that allowed instruction for students at home when schools were closed due to inclement weather.

Pickens County school officials said at the time that the district’s schools already had the capability to implement online learning, adding that every student in grades 4-12 had access to a school-issued device such as a Google Chromebook that they can take home each day.

Digital learning packets were made available for students through Schoology, the district’s primary online learning management software. Digitized lessons could also be downloaded for devices for students without internet access. Activities centered on continuing instruction on South Carolina academic standards listed on the instructional calendar for that day or week.

Actual eLearning days were used by four of the five districts during the fall and early winter, with reasons including flooding and rain associated with Hurricane Michael and snow and ice the week of Dec. 10. Pickens County used its two days in December of last year, so students did not have to make up those missed days since instruction was able to continue.

Results showed that more than 90 percent of parents, teachers and administrators were overwhelmingly positive about the experience and that more than 90 percent of parents said digital learning days provided instructional lessons and or activities for their children.

While the response rate from students was lower, between 65-75 percent, the report concluded that their comments revealed that students missed being with their friends and wanted a day off. The biggest complaint was that some teachers gave too much work and that efforts should be made to have them give a more appropriate amount.

The School District of Oconee County was not a participant in the eLearning program in its inaugural year, and officials say the district again won’t be taking part during the upcoming school year.

“We discussed it with principals early this summer, but decided not to pursue it for the upcoming year,” associate superintendent of administration Steve Hanvey said. “There are concerns about how we ensure it is a useful day of instruction and not busy work. There are also concerns about families that do not have internet access and those students being able to complete the work on the day we are out.”

However, Hanvey did not rule out the district joining the pilot program in the future.

“I am sure it will continue to be discussed each year as long as the state allows that option,” he said.

goliver@upstatetoday.com | (864) 973-6687

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