COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - All school districts across the state are now connected with a vaccine provider and are getting their final plans in place for when teachers and staff are allowed to start getting the vaccine.
It comes as lawmakers debate two resolutions that would move teachers to Group 1A.
Superintendent Molly Spearman gave an update Friday on what those plans look like, as well as schools’ reopening plans and federal funding that will soon be reaching schools.
“While vaccination is not a prerequisite for opening schools, and I’ve been very clear about that, the evidence stands behind us that schools can operate safely. Receiving the vaccine is critical for keeping schools open and staffed appropriately,” Spearman said.
Sherry East, the president of the South Carolina Education Association, agreed. She said staffing remains a huge problem.
“The big problem for schools right now remains the quarantine situation,” East said. “When you get exposed, you are out for days, and it’s a staffing issue within the school.”
Spearman said there are four different ways that school districts are partnering with vaccine providers depending on the size of the district. They include:
- The provider handling everything regarding the vaccine supply, set up, and administration.
- The provider and the district conducting a vaccination event together where district staff is also used.
- The provider supplying the vaccine only, and the school nurses and other personnel vaccinate the teachers and staff.
- The provider coordinating an event where several small districts come together at a central location where the vaccine is administered.
“There are nurses who have been trained and have a doctor’s order so they can assist with giving the vaccine,” Spearman said.
She said that out of the 122,876 educators and staff in the South Carolina school system, over 70,000 have indicated on a survey that they will get the vaccine once it’s offered.
Spearman stressed that she stands by her opinion that schools are safe and all school districts need to be offering in-person learning five days a week.
“Based on the evidence from the CDC, we know that schools are very safe places to be when the proper mitigation measures are in place,” Spearman said.
She said 682 schools out of 1,266 schools across the state are operating five days a week face-to-face, another 553 are hybrid, and only 31 are completely virtual. She added that many schools have submitted plans to return to five days face-to-face in the next few weeks.
She said evidence from both MUSC and the CDC shows that with the proper mitigation measures schools are not super spreaders.
“Guidance from the CDC issued this week says that once vaccinated there is no need for individuals to quarantine,” Spearman said. “This changes the game for schools trying to stay open. This alone gives us reason to move educators and staff to 1A.”
Spearman also addressed COVID relief funding that schools will be receiving this year. She said that funding to schools is basically doubling this year, with over $1 trillion of emergency relief funds coming into the state from the federal government for schools to use for things like addressing learning loss and repairing facilities to improve air quality.
Spearman said catching students up is going to be essential, with data from some statewide testing this year coming in showing there have been drops in reading and math, particularly for second-, fourth-, and fifth-graders.
Spearman said the department of education has requested a federal waiver for official standardized testing this spring. She said they haven’t gotten a response yet, but she believes that the testing would only put extra weight on students and teachers when the state already has data on where students are this year.