IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

New Aiken County School Forms E-Learning Contingency Plan

In the event their new Highland Springs school fails to pass final inspection, Aiken County Public School District officials are planning to use five e-learning days allotted by state law to start the year on time.

offline learning,Time,To,Online,Learning.,Male,Hand,Turns,The,Cube,And
(TNS) — Allowing students to enter the new Highland Springs school on Tuesday for the first day of school will come down to the wire.

Aiken County Public School District officials are tweaking their contingency plan for the first week of school, instead opting for e-learning in the event the school does not pass its final inspection by the South Carolina Education Department's Office for School Facilities. The initial contingency plan developed earlier this summer would have split students by grade level to various educational facilities across the county.

"We have a great partnership with Aiken Technical College and they could not have been more supportive and receptive and helpful to us in making plans ... but now we are kind of up in the air. ... Now it is more likely that if we are not in school, it is only going to be for a very short period of time," Aiken County Schools Superintendent King Laurence said. "We believe that it would be disruptive, and frankly unfair, to ask Aiken Technical College to disrupt their whole campus and create a situation for us if we didn't know until the day before that we were going to use it and we were only going to use it for a couple of days.

"South Carolina law allows us to use five e-learning days during the school year so if we have to do that, we have that as an option for us. I keep repeating — and I am going to keep repeating — that we believe our students are going to be in school on Tuesday morning, July 25," Laurence said. "We have that plan, we always prepare for the worst and we will continue to do that. Over the years, we have prepared for a lot of bad things that never happened so we will continue to do that."

Highland Spring Middle School, located at 822 Fountainhead Drive in North Augusta, has been under construction since May 2022. An inspection of the school on July 12 allowed school staff and administration into the building. According to Laurence, there were a few items that needed to be completed prior to student entry.

Despite the tight deadline, Laurence and Highland Springs Middle School Principal Paige Day are optimistic about getting students into the new building.

"I feel extremely optimistic that we will be here on Tuesday morning and we always develop a plan in case something should go awry," Day said. "That's every day of the school year in case something doesn't go correctly and I think that is being prepared and being professional in this industry."

A virtual meet-the-teacher was held on Friday.

Laptop pickup will begin on Monday at North Augusta High School in the cafeteria from noon to 6 p.m. Student device pickup will be separated by grade level for distribution. Usernames and passwords will be issued, and students will activate their laptop at pickup on NAHS campus.

Students and families will find out the format of the first day of school at Highland Springs on Monday evening. Students will either begin school remotely, with their provided laptop, or in person on campus with their provided laptops in their backpacks.

"We are going to make sure that on Monday parents have the opportunity to come and students have the opportunity to come and get their laptops so that if perchance we have to delay getting into the school with our students, then they have their laptops and we can do e-learning for the first few days until everything is ready for them to come into school," Laurence said. "If what we expect to happen happens, they will be in school on Tuesday and they won't have to waste any time getting their devices, they will have them."

Day is looking forward to showcasing the new facility, featuring top-of-the-line educational technology and instructional material, to students and families.

"I have gotten to take a couple of students through to show them the building and every one of them after the tour is over has said that 'I am so excited to go to school here,' and so that is something lovely to hear," Day said. "Our teachers are also extremely enthusiastic, with a lot of energy. Everybody on this project has signed up to be on this project and so I think that it's something that makes Highland Springs special.

"One of the biggest challenges slash opportunities was in staffing and ordering all the instructional materials for the building. That is something that I don't know I fully grasped in signing up for the project but it has been such an amazing opportunity so we have 10,000 new titles for our media center that were delivered yesterday. Everything in our science labs is brand new, from the beakers to the telescopes," Day continued. "All of our instructional materials our students are going to be using this year are the very best that they have to offer and I think that it is a great opportunity for our students."

Dates for an open house for families and students have not been set at this time. Tours for students on the first day will take place during the first day. Parents who have additional questions should reach out to Highland Springs Middle School directly via email or by phone.

©2023 the Aiken Standard (Aiken, S.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.