Richland One students return to classrooms for first time in 7 months

Richland One students return to classrooms for first time in 7 months

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - For the first time in seven months, some Richland One students are back in front of a teacher face-to-face.

The district transitioned to its Phase Two reopening model Monday.

Starting this week, Pre-K through second grade students will attend school two days a week and learn from home the other three days. Next week, third through twelfth graders will also move to the same hybrid model.

At A.C. Moore Elementary School, administrators, teachers and students were excited to be back in the school building.

“Having them back has been a joy,” Principal LaQuana Aldridge said. “Watching their little eyes light up because, of course, we can’t see their little teeth, but watching their eyes light up has been a joy.”

Over 75 percent of A.C. Moore students opted to return to in-person learning. 

Superintendent Dr. Craig Witherspoon says around 6,000 students in the district have chosen to continue remote learning, while around 16,000 will return to the classroom. He adds most teachers are also back in front of their students, with only a few asking to remain virtual.

“It takes a lot of work to get through this,” he explained. “We know throughout this time everyone’s frustration levels sometimes rose to higher heights, if you will, as we dealt with this and continue to deal with it, but we appreciate them working with us.”

The district says it has plenty of personal protective equipment (PPE), but notes it’s still waiting on a few additional supplies to come in from the state.

At A.C. Moore, Principal Aldridge says a shortage of PPE is not a concern.

“We have our face shields, masks for staff and students, we have desk guards for students,” she said. “We have gowns, thermometers -- so it’s kind of a one-stop shop here in terms of PPE.”

Witherspoon’s biggest concern is seeing COVID-19 cases rise across the country, but he’s hopeful that doesn’t happen in South Carolina. He says his district will enforce hand washing, cleaning and mask wearing to make sure they don’t see an increase in the Richland One community.

“Right now, our main focus is making sure with those mitigating strategies -- the masks and the hand washing -- if we continue to do those things, we will stay in a good place,” Witherspoon explained.

Witherspoon also believes his district has done a good job at making sure students don’t fall behind during virtual learning. But he says this week, teachers will be doing additional assessments to make sure they can meet students where they are.

The district is also working with families who opted for a virtual model, but now want to move to in-person learning, and vice versa.

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