S.C. schools to work with DHEC, Dept. of Ed to make decision about closures

Published: Mar. 13, 2020 at 9:31 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Friday afternoon, Governor Henry McMaster's ordered to close Kershaw County and Lancaster County schools for the next two weeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

That order also directs the Department of Health and Environmental Contro (SCDHEC) to work with the State Superintendent of Education and local school leaders to decide when and if other school districts should close and for how long.

Right now, the CDC and SCDHEC are not advising for events or schools to be canceled because DHEC says there is no evidence of community spread coronavirus in schools. We asked DHEC officials Friday how they know that there isn’t community spread coronavirus in schools since only a little more than 100 people have been tested for the virus statewide. We have not received an answer to that question.

At a press conference Friday, State Superintendent, Molly Spearman said the Department of Education is relying on DHEC to help them make a decision.

"They're looking at the facts of what's happening in those districts,” Spearman said. “There's no reason at this time for any other district in the state to close. We'll be talking with them, and of course, we watch this by the hour, so things could change."

Several state representatives are frustrated and calling on the governor to close all schools. Representative Seth Rose is one of those frustrated lawmakers.

“I’ve been waiting for some action to take place on why our children are still going to school and I personally would rather be safe than sorry," said Rose.

Some school districts are already taking steps to prepare in case schools do close. At Richland One, all field trips have been suspended and visitor and volunteer access to schools has been restricted to parents, guardians, and emergency contacts.

The Department of Education said teachers are submitting virtual learning plans. Officials also say there is a plan to get school work together for students in Lancaster County and Kershaw County, who will not be in school for the next two weeks.

The South Carolina Department of Education’s Office of Health and Nutrition said it has been granted a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will allow summer feeding options to be used during any unanticipated school closures. The department says it has also received a waiver for flexibility from the congregate feeding requirement. These waivers will allow communities to provide nutritious meals to students who may not have access to them outside of the school day.

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