Newberry Co. announces school reopening plans, some teachers push for virtual start

Newberry Co. announces school reopening plans, some teachers push for virtual start

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Newberry County School Board announced Tuesday evening it will start the school year on August 24, just one week later than scheduled.

Parents will have the choice between a hybrid model or virtual instruction. Some teachers and parents are worried sending teachers and students back to the classroom while coronavirus case numbers are high could cause a lot of people to get sick.

Tuesday afternoon, dozens of teachers and parents held a rally in front of the District Office to encourage their district to start the school year online and push the start date until after Labor Day.

“We do want to continue to educate our kids. We’re not being lazy. We’re not crying, but safety is our biggest concern,” explained 22-year veteran educator, Sheryll Middleton.

Teachers will have to apply to teach virtually, and Middleton says she’s worried there won’t be enough virtual positions for all of the teachers who feel uncomfortable returning.

“67.8 percent of teachers do not feel safe going back into the classroom,” she explained. “I do have a father who’s battling throat cancer, so I am skeptical coming into the building. Even though I may protect myself with scrubs, gloves, face shields, hand sanitizer, it really can’t take away the risk.”

Carolyn Jones’ 14-year-old son is a rising freshman at Newberry High School. She says she understands some parents need to return to work, and some students are falling behind.

“Kids have lost a lot,” Jones said. “I’m trying to ask the question, ‘What would they gain by throwing them back into school with a pandemic going on?' You’ll have more kids sick than anything.”

Middle School art teacher Abby Nix says getting children to wash their hands and stay away from each other is nearly impossible.

“Going back, we’re all going to be sharing each other’s germs and that scares me,” Nix said.

She and other teachers across the state are hopeful their districts will choose plans that promote teacher and student safety.

“I can’t ignore the fact that the cases are higher now than when we left in March, and we’re going back,” Nix explained. “Bars are closed, but we’re going back. And all these places, you can’t have this many people, but we’re going back. And it just, kind of, it rings a very loud bell for me as to where I stand in the eyes of legislation.”

Newberry County says it will use CARES Act money to make sure every student has an electronic device before the start of the school year.

Copyright 2020 WIS. All rights reserved.