Educators determine how, when to reopen schools in the Midlands

Updated: Jul. 13, 2020 at 7:43 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - State Education Superintendent Molly Spearman says her office has received only five district reopening plans by Monday morning.

She expects many more district plans to roll in rapidly throughout the week. They will review them and look at the waivers districts might require.

On the reopening issue, President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have recently said that schools that do not reopen should not receive federal funding. State Superintendent Molly Spearman says that threat will not influence her decision on how South Carolina will move forward.

“I know that decision about federal funds comes from Congress,” said Spearman. ”I can’t imagine our congressional delegation ever voting to take away funds from the most vulnerable children in South Carolina. The largest percentage of federal funds go to help special needs students and children in poverty. I can’t believe Congress would ever do that. I’m not concerned about that, and that would not sway my decision. This is all based on the health and the needs of our students in our communities.”

WIS spent time looking into reopening proposals and timelines for many of the Midlands school districts.

Calhoun County utilized its task force to create its three plans: face-to-face, a hybrid between in-person and virtual, and distance learning. They expect to announce which plan to start with later this week.

Saluda County will do so on Wednesday.

Lex-Rich District 5 held a board meeting Monday to discuss the reopening plans, while Lexington Three will hold a board meeting on Tuesday.

Lexington One is revisiting its original plan for elementary students to stay with the same groups all day and a modified staggered schedule for middle and high schools. Their formal proposal should go to the board next Tuesday.

Lexington Two and Four, say they will share updates this week on reopening.

Richland One officials say they continue to assess all options, as they look over the parent and teacher survey responses.

Richland Two’s model will be flexible based on disease activity within Richland County under the DHEC and Accelerate Ed guidelines. Meaning - if there’s a high rate of COVID-19, R2 would begin all virtual.

As of today, the draft plan is to start on on-time August 19th.

Kershaw County intends to delay its school start date until after Labor Day, with a survey out to parents right now to see how comfortable they are with distance or in-person learning. They have three tentative options for students.

  • Option 1- Face to Face Instruction
  • Option 2- Virtual "eCampus" Live
  • Option 3- Virtual “eCampus” Self-Paced

Fairfield is still considering its options ahead of its July 21st board meeting.

For distance learning, Spearman says the state is working to make sure the teachers have the professional development they need to teach a virtual class.

"As many of them are moving into virtual instruction and have never done that before. That we help them with that and well qualified to deliver the instruction."

If back in the classroom, the goal is to equip the school nurses to test for COVID-19.

"We also work with all the school nurses to make sure the nurses are ready for the extra responsibility that they have now," Spearman added. "We're trying to work with DHEC so that our school nurses will be able to do testing on site. There's a lot of moving parts."

Sumter School District has a firm plan to begin the 2020-2021 school year. It was released on July 6th, and the district will start all virtual on August 17th and phase into a hybrid model.

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