LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - On Thursday, Batesburg-Leesville Elementary looked unchanged from the outside.
On the inside, the changes in response to COVID-19 were evident.
WIS toured the school during its LEAP week, an optional orientation for elementary school students and staff.
Hallway walls were barren for the sake of cleaning, students were spread apart in the classroom, and the cafeteria was effectively closed in response to the pandemic as classes will pick up meals and return to their classrooms.
Principal Matt Velasquez said each class will be kept separate from one another in order to avoid the spread of the virus. This even translated to the outdoor fields, where play areas for different classes were striped off.
"I don't think my brain has shut off since June, just trying to think of everything that had to happen, need to happen to have our students be safe but also academically successful," he said.
The majority of students and staff wore masks and Velasquez cited Department of Education guidance on giving teachers some flexibility on mask wearing in the classroom.
Fourth-grade teacher Ashley Bouknight elaborated, stating classes and teachers are required to wear masks as they move through the school. She also said students and staff are required to wear masks when classes are working in small groups or one-on-one.
Bouknight said she will be working with 40 students for in-person learning and recognizes the risk. However, she wanted to be back.
"Well, it was a no-brainer for me. I'm from the get-go, I'm 100 percent for coming back. I chose to not live in fear," she said. "I know it's real and I know there's risk, but I think our mindset determines how others around us react and I think if we're panicked, we're going to cause the parents to be panicked or the kids. So faith over fear is what I said."
Velasquez also acknowledged of risk of COVID-19 spread and said the school will be following the “flow-chart” of Department of Health and Environmental Control guidelines if and when someone in the school tests positive.
“It is scary to think a child may go home with COVID. You brought up children, but I’m concerned about my staff potentially getting COVID. But that’s why we’re doing all this,” he said.
Velasquez said 52 students participated in the LEAP day on Thursday. He said he expects roughly 300 students to be face-to-face when the school year begins.
The total enrollment of the school is roughly 500.
The Lexington Three School District updates its COVID-19 policies by clicking here.