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AccelerateED task force talks recommendations for summer programs

The State Department of Education wants to make sure they can safely teach students over the summer and in the fall.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — How to get summer reading and math programs up and running. That was the topic of discussion for the AccelerateED task force during a virtual meeting on Thrusday.

The group is tasked with coming up with guidelines for schools to safely reopen during this pandemic.

The group's first challenge will be providing summer programs for students who have fallen behind in math and reading during the school year.

"The main challenge in reopening for summer programs is also the one we are going to face in the fall and that is having parents, students and staff feel that it's safe to come back to school," says Alan Walters, executive director of safety and risk management for Georgetown County Schools. "We're not going to get another chance for a first impression. So, we have to make sure that we do this right."

Walters suggested having individual districts form reopening teams, made up of administrators, teachers, staff, parents and some students.

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He says these groups would need to assess individual school buildings to determine the safest way to utilize the space.

He also suggested having a school nurse for every school in the state. Currently there are 67 schools that have part-time nurses and 99 that don't have one at all. However, funding could be a challenge.

The South Carolina Department of Education is already dealing with a funding shortage for summer programs.

Superintendent Molly Spearman explained that SCDE would need $115 million for the summer reading program, in addition to the CARES act funding.

However, the state has only allocated $13 million for the program.

"I know it's very difficult because this is definitely one of those chicken and egg situations," says Spearman. "You don't know how many children to invite to the camp until you know how much money you got, and they don't know how much money to give us until they know how many children we've got. So, it's a difficult situation and we are going to do the best we can."

However, she says she's determined to have summer programs for students and aims to have some of the programs in person.

"Thank goodness for all of this great technology, but for students who are learning to read and they are struggling, they need to be sitting with a teacher," says Spearman. "It may be six feet apart, but we need to get them back with a teacher just as soon as possible."

For a look at the full AccelerateED meeting, click the link here.