Lexington-Richland 5 District officials work to reopen schools safely

Lexington-Richland 5 District officials work to reopen schools safely

LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - Lexington-Richland 5 is on the cusp of opening their doors for their LEAP days next week, and on Monday night parents heard from district officials at the in-person public board of Trustees meeting.

District officials detailed what safety and sanitation measures have been taken for safely reopening to a hybrid learning model on September 8th, as well as laying out the structure for the LEAP days, which will center around testing for some students and teaching the new procedures.

The measures include ordering over 1,000 plexiglass stations to install at common areas in schools to hand sanitizer stations throughout the school.

Teachers and district administrators said that the new measures make them confident and excited to welcome students back to school.

“Being back with the kids, being back in the classroom, this is our happy place, this is where we want to be, so I’m so excited we are here,” Ballentine Elementary teacher Amanda Huggins said.

For many teachers at Ballentine Elementary School like Huggins, welcoming students back to their classroom couldn’t come soon enough, but Superintendent Dr. Christina Melton said it hasn’t come without its challenges.

“It has not been easier than we expected, it has been a commitment to thought-provoking conversations,” Dr. Melton said.

Those conversations included designing the district’s hybrid model, implementing social distancing procedures in classes and hallways, and installing sanitizing stations in all of the hallways. Chief of Facilities Operations Clay Cannon said a few of the challenges have been spacing out desks in the classroom and making sure that every student sits 6 feet apart while eating in the cafeteria.

“Due to the numbers we can’t get quite the 6 feet, but we are trying to get as much as we can,” Cannon said.

District officials said masks will be mandatory, but that there will be mask breaks and exceptions at certain times.

“We think in reality a kindergarten or first grade student may need a break at some point during the day,” Chief Planning and Administrative Officer Dr. Michael Harris said.

District officials said they’ve also been preparing to welcome back children with special needs.

“For students that have sensory issues, we have ordered special masks for them,” Angie Slatton, the Director of Special Services said.

Slatton said they’ve also ordered additional PPE for staff for situations in which staff and a student can’t be six feet apart.

“There are shields that can be worn in addition to the masks, there are jackets for staff that have to be in close proximity whether it’s for a medically fragile child that we are tube feeding for example,” Slatton said.

Dr. Melton said all the planning has paid off, and they are excited to see their students on September 8th.

“We get to hear noise in our schools again, we get to see our teachers do what they do best,” Dr. Melton said.

District officials said that the number of students who chose the hybrid option varied based on the school, with some having 85% of students returning, while others are only seeing 50% of their students returning. District officials said 70% of students in the district as a whole chose the hybrid model, while the other 30% opted for a full virtual model. 

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