3 high schools in LR5 closed Tuesday following high number of staff absences

Updated: Dec. 1, 2020 at 7:29 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Following a high number of leave requests from staff members Monday night, three high schools within Lexington-Richland School District 5 will be closed Tuesday, December 1.

Out of an abundance of caution, school officials decided to close Irmo High School, Dutch Fork School High and Chapin High School for the safety of students and staff.

It’s unclear how many teachers called out, the district said it’s still finalizing the tally.

This comes after an LR5 Board of Trustees meeting Monday night during which members did not take up a vote on whether the district should return to hybrid learning.

Superintendent Dr. Christina Melton wants the district to go back to hybrid learning as COVID-19 cases have increased among students and staff in LR5 schools.

Another special-called board meeting will happen Wednesday, Dec. 2 to further the discussion.

Teachers appear to have called out from the district to make their displeasure known about the board’s inaction.

Dutch Fork English teacher Carol Jackson said there was no formal organization to call outs, but inter-teacher communication began following the board’s decision to adjourn.

“That was the moment that we realized this board is not hearing about us, this board does not care about us,” she said.

Jackson expressed concerns about a lack of social distancing in the classrooms due to low staffing. She said students are wearing masks, but larger class sizes due to teacher quarantines aggravates the issue.

Health concerns were echoed by Irmo High School Social Studies teacher Drew Walker, who also called out. He said the staffing shortages have compounded the challenges of teaching virtually and in-person during the pandemic, taking a mental health toll on him and his colleagues.

He said the conditions teachers are working in undermine the educational mission.

“We’re not lying when we say we want to be in our classrooms. That’s my job and I love my job and that’s where I’d rather be today. Not being there today, it hurts me, it hurts them, it hurts everybody,” he said. “I admit to that part. My counter though would be when you take all these compounded issues that we’re dealing with on a day-to-day basis, that education is being negatively impacted every single day.”

He called the board’s inaction a betrayal.

“We’re being pulled in too many directions, and I think last night a solution got proposed that might have freed us a little bit to improve that, and it just got cast aside,” he said.

“Yeah, today sucks, today sucks for everybody but we’re trying to fix this long term.”

Chapin High School Mother Maren Martin said she understands the teacher’s concerns and is not angry with them, but regrets the consequences of the board/teacher standoff.

“It feels like these kids are in the middle of a nasty divorce and they’re being pulled in all these different ways, and in the end, they’re the ones that are going to suffer from it,” she said.

School Board Chair Jan Hammond and Vice-Chair Ken Loveless could not be reached for comment.

SC for Ed supports the educators of Lexington/Richland School District 5 as they fight for transparency and the safety...

Posted by SC for Ed on Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Tuesday will be an e-learning day day for students attending Dutch Fork, Irmo High and Chapin High and teachers will provide information regarding assignments to students.

School officials say that students should check for assignments through Google Classroom and email their teachers if they have any questions.

Wednesday, December 2 will continue to be a distance learning day for all students in Lexington-Richland School District 5.

Staff absences will be monitored by district officials to determine if schools will reopen Thursday.

Parents, staff and students within Lexington-Richland School District 5 will by notified by the schools’ automated phone system, the district’s website and social media regarding any future announcements.

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