6 ways Charleston County Schools is bringing students back

Charleston County's younger students were among those who struggled most with online and remote learning
By: | May 28, 2021
Educators in the Charleston County School District are prioritizing family outreach in their efforts to get students to return to classrooms this summer and fall.Educators in the Charleston County School District are prioritizing family outreach in their efforts to get students to return to classrooms this summer and fall.

Charleston County School District classrooms refilled more quickly this year at schools where long-term principals maintained close ties to the community.

This school year, administrators in the South Carolina district also set up community learning pods so families nervous about COVID still had access to in-person, small-group instruction, Chief Academic Officer Karolyn Belcher says.

In the process of setting up the pods, administrators learned a lot more about each family’s challenges—from lack of internet to food insecurity, Belcher says.

“We learned not to make assumptions about what was limiting kids in coming back to school,” she says.

To encourage more students to return, the district has launched K-8 summer programs that will combine academics with afternoon enrichment activities in arts, music, dance and STEM.

Educators are working to recruit about 3,000 students who are at risk of failure and who didn’t consistently log in or complete assignments this school year. “We’re very excited that we’re seeing a high level of interest because schools have reached out personally,” she says.

Middle schools are using ESSER funds to give raises to teachers willing to work during summer school. “We want to attract the best, most talented and effective teachers to work with the kids who need them most,” Belcher says.

As teachers get their rosters for summer school, they are also reaching out to connect with families, she adds

Preschool push

Like in many districts, Charleston County’s younger students were among those who struggled most with online and remote learning, says  Kimberly Foxworth, the executive director of Early Childhood Readiness Programs.

COVID forced the district to limit preschool capacity while some families held children out of kindergarten. The district is now sending staff members into its communities to encourage families to register for kindergarten and first grade.

Once students enroll, teachers and support reach out to help begin the transition and gauge how prepared each student is to begin school, Foxworth says.

District staff also work to connect families of young students to community services.

Foxworth also hopes the districts can soon hold socially distanced open houses so families can tour schools and observe safety precautions. “It’s all about relationships in getting families to trust the school district,” she says.