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LR5 school board still debating return to hybrid schedule

Another meeting is scheduled for Dec. 2.
Updated: Dec. 1, 2020 at 10:50 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Lexington Richland School District Five held a special board meeting on Monday night to discuss a return to hybrid learning.

For the past several weeks, the district has had all grades in the classroom four days a week.

After much discussion Monday, the board adjourned without taking action. Trustees decided not to take up a motion to allow the superintendent to act as she saw fit when it came to the reopening model for the district.

Superintendent Dr. Christina Melton recommended the district return to a hybrid model for 7th through 12th graders at the beginning of December. In the hybrid model, students are in the classroom two days a week and virtual for the other three days.

It comes as COVID-19 cases among students and staff at schools across the state, and in LR5, have sharply increased.

Melton said district officials struggled with the recommendation, but felt it was necessary after 22 of their 23 schools reported positive faculty or student cases, as well as staffing problems.

However, the board struck down the motion to allow Melton to make the change back to hybrid learning and adjourned before reaching an alternate decision.

“The thing that I am concerned or anxious about is the supervision and the safety of our students operationally at this time, and our staff’s well-being,” Melton said. “At what point do we try to be proactive and preventative rather than reactive and exposed?”

District officials said from Nov. 19 to 24, the number of high school students in quarantine went from 200 to more than 330.

Melton said in addition to the rise in COVID-19 cases among students, staffing is the biggest problem.

“The bottom line for me at this point is definitely staffing because of the wellness of our staff, the availability, the strain, and the operations of school district five,” Melton said.

District officials said the number of faculty and teacher absences is exceeding the number of replacements available.

Melton said she is concerned about the district’s well-being if the board doesn’t act.

“We have many staff members at a breaking point, pleading for help, relief, and some sort of a change,” Melton said.

Board members were split on the competing needs of students being in school, versus faculty and student safety.

“I do know that kids are better off in school,” LR5 Board of Trustees Chair Jan Hammond said. “What concerned me tonight to make me even consider voting for the AB for a certain amount of time was the staffing issue.”

Trustees did not take up a motion to allow Melton to act and the board ultimately voted 4 to 3 to adjourn rather than pass an alternative motion.

It’s something some board members were upset about.

“I’m disappointed that we had no decision,” Hammond said.

Tuesday, the district announced another special-called board meeting for Wednesday, Dec. 2 to take up the issue again.

The board did pass a motion Monday to create a dashboard listing a weekly update on the number of COVID-19 cases at individual schools and the number of students and faculty quarantined.

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