SC state superintendent disagrees with governor on plan to reopen schools

Molly Spearman says districts should focus on safety.
AccelerateED is accepting input on these recommendations until Thursday at 10 am.
AccelerateED is accepting input on these recommendations until Thursday at 10 am.(WIS)
Updated: Jul. 15, 2020 at 11:02 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - State Superintendent Molly Spearman did not join Gov. Henry McMaster for his announcement urging public schools to reopen to in-person learning five days a week starting in September.

The governor believes parents should be able to choose to send their child back to school full-time or opt for virtual learning full-time.

McMaster said he is urging Spearman to reject any district’s reopening plan that does not allow for five days of in-person learning at the start of school, along with virtual learning.

However, Spearman says she will listen to school leaders and public health experts to make her decisions.

In a statement she released during the governor’s announcement, she says she will only approve plans that focus on safety as their top priority.

Later, her spokesman told WIS Spearman “does not agree with the five day directive and thus did not attend the press conference during which the Governor issued it.”

He added: “They do however share the goal of offering parents both an in-person and virtual option.”

Here’s Spearman’s original statement in full:

“Every South Carolina parent must be afforded the option to choose virtual learning or a face to face model for their child this school year. The pandemic has shown the vital importance of our public education system and the broad range of services beyond teaching it provides for our students every day. Our goal must be a return to five day a week in person instruction as safely and as soon as possible.

“We cannot, however turn a blind eye to the health and safety of our students and staff when the spread of the virus in some of our communities is among the highest in the world. School leaders, in consultation with public health experts, are best positioned to determine how in-person operations should be carried out to fit the needs of their local communities. I remain committed to supporting them in this endeavor and will only approve those plans that offer high quality options and keep safety as their top priority.”

Plans for reopening schools happen at the district level. Each district must come up with its own plan.

Several public school districts have released plans that take into account the spread of COVID-19 in their area when looking to reopen.

They would reopen in phases, with some starting exclusive with virtual learning. Other districts would start with schedules that would have some students in classrooms for two days a week, and another group in class for two different days.

Most have different plans concerning elementary, middle and high school students. In some cases, elementary school students would attend school each day.

Parents, if you had to choose today -- would you send your child back to school, or opt for virtual learning?

Posted by WIS TV on Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The districts would gradually phase in students to school buildings as case numbers went down, and would eventually allow everyone to return.

Most would give parents the option of continuing their children’s education virtually throughout the year, as well as switch between virtual learning and in-person learning during the year.

This phased approach was recommended by AccelerateED, a task force set up to research how best to reopen schools safely.

Friday, July 17 is the deadline for school districts to submit their reopening plans to the state.

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