Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2020

When South Carolina schools were ordered to close this week to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Greenville County teachers were faced with a challenge: how to educate students from home.

“We simply can’t lose two weeks of instruction or four weeks if we’re out longer. This needs to be a time that kids are learning,” said Jeff McCoy, Associate Superintendent for Academics with Greenville County Schools. 

Right after the governor’s announcement that schools would close till the end of the month, McCoy’s team started working on templates to help teachers prepare two-week lesson plans for students.

The academics department had already begun work on eLearning model plans for all grade levels to lessen the burden on teachers. However, once the shutdown occurred, the timeline required teachers to complete the bulk of the work themselves, while Academics built a website to provide support and information to teachers and parents.  

“We stayed till late Sunday night undoing everything we did that morning since teachers were now going to be in school with no students. We needed to provide guidance for teachers so there wouldn’t be utter chaos,” McCoy said.

Talk about pressure. The district’s 6,000 teachers had two days to get their lesson plans together. Miraculously, they did it in one!

“I’ve never seen so much synergy. Everyone came together for the common good of the children and for school,” said Sharon Russo, a preschool special education teacher at Mauldin Elementary.

Across the district, teachers scrambled to have everything for the launch of eLearning on Wednesday, March 18. Students in grades 3-12 would have downloadable lessons for their school-issued Chromebooks. Younger students in K-2 would download worksheets from their teacher’s website.

But for students without the ability to print at home, teachers would provide a packet of materials—which created quite a challenge.

“We looked at each other and were like, ‘We cannot get this done,’” said Caraline Richardson, a second-grade teacher at Blythe Academy.

Blythe Academy had chosen to prepare three weeks of printed lessons instead of two. But stapling together papers for hundreds of packets was taking far too long.

Then, a miracle happened.

Cafeteria workers at Blythe Academy help teachers prepare packets for students
Cafeteria workers at Blythe Academy help teachers prepare packets for students

 “We sent out an email to see if anybody could come help staple. Literally within ten minutes, every cafeteria worker was up here helping. It brought tears to our eyes,” Richardson said.

This is Greenville County Schools’ first foray into eLearning. The district applied to become an eLearning school system last year, but the SC Education Oversight Committee (EOC) rejected its plan. Now, that plan is being put to use during the COVID-19 shutdown.

“We were able to pull that plan out, add some meat to it and implement what we said we were going to do,” McCoy said.

That and some amazing teamwork by teachers means Greenville County students won’t miss a beat.

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