By Greg Oliver

The Journal

EASLEY — In a letter sent home to parents Friday, School District of Pickens County superintendent Danny Merck announced the third six-week schedule for the district will feature a combination of in-person and remote learning starting Nov. 16 and running through Jan. 8.

Merck

Merck said traditional face-to-face instruction for 3-year-old kindergarten through 12th grades will take place for five of the six weeks, with remote learning Nov. 23 and 24 and a half day Dec. 18. The district previously announced that Nov. 23 and 24 would serve as remote learning to help those who travel during Thanksgiving. Those two days will now include asynchronous non-traditional learning, and teachers will have office hours but no WebEx sessions.

Teachers will provide assignments starting Nov. 16 and due Dec. 4. No school will take place on Thanksgiving break from Nov. 25-27 or Christmas holiday break from Dec. 21-Jan. 1. Students will return to school Jan. 4.

Merck said plans for the third six-week schedule were made “while trying to determine the next six weeks of school.”

“We have a lot of things to consider while trying to protect the health and safety of our staff and students, stakeholder feedback, flu season, support personnel and COVID-19 data,” the superintendent added.

“Stakeholder feedback shows that some want full face-to-face with no restrictions, and others think that any in-person school is an unnecessary risk,” Merck said. “For balance, we offer face-to-face instruction with opportunities for remote learning during Thanksgiving and the half-day before the holiday break. While it is impossible to predict the impact of illness during our next six-week schedule, we hope to use our Thanksgiving and holiday breaks to limit the number of exposed students and employees.”

Merck said this time of year is the start of one of the most difficult periods in public education with flu season, and that, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, promises to make it an even more difficult season this winter.

“Our nurses have done an outstanding job of dealing with the many medical needs of students,” Merck said. “We will rely on their expertise and the medical community to prepare for it.”

The superintendent added in his letter that concerns are not only related to the classroom.

“We must have enough critical support personnel in every school and have a need for additional personnel in areas for nurses, bus drivers, custodians and food service workers,” he said. “Delays or closures at schools might occur due to the lack of critical support personnel in these areas.”

While the district will attempt to follow the third six-week schedule, Merck said schools have struggled to remain open several times due to the number of employees unable to work.

Merck said the district plans to announce its fourth six-week schedule — covering Jan. 11-Feb.19 — prior to Christmas break. While pointing out that the district will attempt to have as much traditional face-to-face learning as can safely be offered, “We respectfully ask parents to make plans for more remote learning during this period, just in case it’s needed.”

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