Mary Watkins of Campobello began looking for other educational opportunities for her 8-year-old son Ethan after learning that District 1 would be starting their 2019-20 school year on a hybrid schedule due to the pandemic.
“We loved Campobello-Gramling, but the hybrid schedule wouldn’t work for our family,” said Watkins. “And Ethan learns best when he’s in class.”
She found the GREEN Charter School (GCSS) in Spartanburg. GCSS opened in 2019 with only 250 students. Due to the small class sizes at the school they did not operate on a hybrid schedule but were face to face 5 days a week except for a few weeks the school had to go virtual by due to the growing number of positive COVID-19 cases.
During this time, GCSS teachers taught with virtually no loss of instructional time for their students.
The 2021 state report card released earlier this month showed several upstate districts topped the state average. But GREEN scores topped many local school districts, including SC State, Spartanburg District 5, Spartanburg District 6, Spartanburg District 7, SC Public Charter School District, and overall averages of the Greenville County Public School District on their ELA and math scores.
In ELA for primary and middle school:
- GCSS surpassed the SC State average by 21%
- GCSS outclassed the public charter school district SC by 14.6%
- GCSS outperformed Spartanburg District 5 by 17.2%
- GCSS outclassed Spartanburg District 6 by 27.4%
- GCSS outclassed Spartanburg District 7 by 26.6%
- GCSS outperformed Greenville County Public Schools by 13.6%
In mathematics for primary and middle school:
- GCSS surpassed the SC State average by 19.65%
- GCSS outclassed the SC Charter Public School District by 19.05%
- GCSS outperformed Spartanburg District 5 by 11.45%
- GCSS outperformed Spartanburg District 6 by 24.95%
- GCSS outperformed Spartanburg District 7 by 23.65%
- GCSS outperformed Greenville County Public Schools by 12.75%
These comparable data were collected here. While the overall negative impact of the pandemic is apparent, the data indicates that students at GREEN Charter School of Spartanburg have experienced much less learning loss compared to other similar settings.
Family approach to student learning
Principal Fatih Kandil attributes the school’s family-centered approach to the student’s passing tests. Attending GCSS is a choice as it is a charter school. Kandil says parental involvement is a key part of a child’s educational success.
“Our parents help with club activities. They volunteer in the classrooms, ”Kandil said. “It’s not just about the teacher to the student. It strongly involves families in the learning process. It makes a huge difference in our opinion.
Brianna Walker, grade eight social science teacher, credits parent involvement and administrator support to the learning atmosphere at GCSS.
“It’s such a great environment and the kids love it here,” Walker said. “Parents have chosen to put their kids here, and they really provide an incredible level of home support. So we can then connect with that and give the kids the best education they can get.”
GCSS used a unique learning environment as the 2020-2021 school year approached. Their goal was to have as little wasted learning time as possible. The GCSS administration felt that the best way to tackle this obstacle was to have teachers teach face-to-face and virtually, synchronously, meaning that teachers instruct students in their classroom at the same time. time than virtual students.
“I give all the credit to our amazing teachers. Kandil said. “They didn’t want the kids to fall behind and with our small classes, we thought this plan would be possible. ”
This involved the added expense of new headsets so that teachers could move around the classroom while teaching virtually. It also required training for teachers, students and parents, who attended a pre-school training session on what virtual learning would look like for their students.
Reducing quarantines and positive cases has been at the forefront of conversations between administrators at schools upstate. GCSS’s goal was to be as proactive as possible to protect their students while using the technological tools at their disposal.
Admins knew the kids would be traveling over the Christmas holidays in 2020, coming into contact with family and friends. Again, Principal Kandil and Deputy Principal Melissa Hester wanted to be proactive in protecting their students and staff.
“Everyone was traveling and visiting family,” Hester said. “Rather than waiting for something to happen, we used our virtual learning technology and all of the students attending school virtually for the first two weeks after the Christmas break.
Their plan worked. The students returned to the school for face-to-face learning and according to Kandil, the school had no quarantines or positive students until the end of the school year.
Less autonomy for administrators this year
However, Kandil and Hester say decisions they may have made for their school last year, such as when to go virtual and require masks, were taken away from them this year by legislation in Colombia.
“Last year it was a team decision,” Kandil said. “This year, we don’t have that power. If the decision-making was left to the administrators on site rather than at Columbia, I think we would be able to accomplish much more.
Rita Allison of the District 36 House of Representatives says the state’s current provisions are not lasting legislation and are only valid for this school year. She believes districts should have the flexibility to do whatever they need to do in their schools to keep their students safe.
“By the time these conditions were put in place, COVID had kind of subsided. Allison said. “We were at the bottom, and I think the people who sponsored the reserves in the budget took that into account. Now we’re in a different situation with the delta variant.”
Ashley Dill is from Spartanburg and has been on the staff of the Herald-Journal for 14 years. She covers community news and can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @ashleydill_shj.